The Lodi Lawsuit Waiting to Happen October 4, 2009

The Lodi Lawsuit Waiting to Happen

The city of Lodi, California used to allow non-denominational, non-sectarian prayers before City Council meetings. That was a bad idea back in May when it was instituted.

Somehow, they’ve made it worse.

On Wednesday night, the Lodi (California) City Council voted unanimously, 5-0, to allow uncensored prayers before meetings. That is to say, you can now “pray in Jesus’ name” before council meetings.

This story is getting a lot of attention from Christians everywhere… I wonder how many of them could tell you what issues are discussed at the council meetings post-prayer. Do they know? Do they care? Doubtful. The prayer is all that’s important to them. Not anything of real substance.

With the new changes, other faiths can offer invocations, too. So can the non-religious. But I can see this easily getting out of hand. What will the reaction be when someone praises Allah pre-meeting? Can someone bring up Xenu? Thor?

Lodi and other local cities Tehachapi, Tracy and Turlock are in for a fight over this. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is just waiting to pounce, looking for the right test-case to file a lawsuit.

If you doubt how “Christian” these pre-council prayers are, FFRF has made a chart (PDF) documenting the types of prayers which have been used in the past.

* = Prayer conducted in the name of “Jesus,” “Jesus Christ,” “Christ’s name,” “Your Son’s Name,” or “Lord, in Your Holy Name”

B = Attendees requested to “bow your heads”

W = Excerpts from the Bible or references to Scripture used

G = Christian dogma or sermonizing used

Here’s just the chart from 2008-2009:

Date Speech Speaker Church
01/16/08 *W Pastor Chris Chavez Heartland Community Church
02/06/08 G Pastor Glen Barnes First Baptist Church
02/20/08 *B Ken Owen Christian Community Concerns
03/05/08 *W Pastor Kevin Suess Vinewood Community Church
03/19/08 *G Barbara Taylor Lodi Police Chaplains
04/02/08 Father Brandon Ware St. Anne’s Catholic Church
04/16/08 Revered Dr. Alan Kimber First United Methodist Church
05/07/08 * Ken Owen Christian Community Concerns
05/21/08 Pastor Mark Price St. Paul Lutheran Church
06/04/08 * Pastor Bill Cummins Bear Creek Community Church
06/18/08 *G Pastor Steve Newman First Baptist Church
07/02/08 * Pastor Marianne Weethee Heartland Community Church
07/16/08 *B Ken Owen Christian Community Concerns
08/06/08 Ken Owen Christian Community Concerns — no show
08/20/08 Pastor Marianne Weethee Heartland Community Church
09/03/08 *B Reverend John Kah St Peter Lutheran Church
09/17/08 Reverend Alan Kimber First United Methodist Church
10/01/08 * Pastor Bill Cummins Bear Creek Community Church
10/15/08 *W Arlene Proctor First Reader — 1st Church of Christ, Scientist
11/05/08 *B Pastor Ken Owen Christian Community Concerns
11/19/08 *B Reverend David Hill Grace Presbyterian Church
12/03/08 * Rod Suess Vinewood Community Church
12/17/08 *B,G Ken Owen Christian Community Concerns
01/07/09 *W Pastor Bill Cummins Bear Creek Community Church
01/21/09 Pastor Bill Johnson First United Methodist Church
02/04/09 * Pastor Steve Newman First Baptist Church
02/18/09 *G Pastor Marianne Weethee Heartland Community Church
03/04/09 W Arlene Proctor First Reader Christian Science Church
03/18/09 *G Assoc. Pastor Dwight Friesen Vinewood Community Church
04/01/09 B,G Rev. Alan Kimber First United Methodist Church
04/15/09 B,G Reverend David Hill Grace Presbyterian Church
05/06/09 * Pastor Matthew Duerr Zion Reformed Church

Where are the non-Christian prayers in there? Non-existent.

I doubt that’s going to change. It’ll only get more religiously charged now.

FFRF will continue to keep an eye on the situation and they’ll file a lawsuit if needed.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I say we got Prophet Bobby Henderson to go out to Lodi and anoint the council members with marinara in the name of the FSM. Like, dumping an entire bowl of the stuff on their heads. Hey, we’re a real religion, aren’t we?

    Chowderheads.

  • Forgive my ignorance but don’t the California City council work for California city and represent the people of the aforementioned city? How does prayer during official council meetings provide a better service for the people? If I lived in California I’d want a refund on my local taxes.

    Prayer indeed, poppycock!

  • Frank

    How does making the prayers more specific to christianity make it worse? I have a problem with the prayers no matter how specific or general they are, and the more specific the prayers are the more people they piss off and the more allies we have. And aren’t allies good?

  • Scott M.

    I think some of the atheists in the Lodi, CA area need to take some turkey calls into the local council meeting. When the praying starts, so should the GOBBLE-GOBBLE noises.

    Nothing like pitting the Freedom of speech against the Freedom of religion, eh?! I wonder which the city council would then try to defend.

    I’d suggest everyone take a braying-jackass call but it seems the clergy members have that noise covered.

  • Zar

    Too bad I don’t live in the area. I would love to pop in and chant with the Necronomicon.

    “Before we begin, I would like to start us off by saying SHUB NIGGURATH! BLACK GOAT OF THE WOOD WITH A THOUSAND YOUNG!!!! IA!!!”

  • Richard Wade

    California’s Bible belt is the San Joaquin Valley and Lodi is near the buckle. I used to have to drive past it to the college in Turlock, which is the buckle. I was always afraid my car would break down near Lodi.

    Everybody prays in Lodi, even if it’s just to get out, like Creedence Clearwater Revival:

    Just about a year ago
    I set out on the road
    Seekin’ my fame and fortune
    And lookin’ for a pot of gold
    Things got bad, and things got worse
    I guess you know the tune
    Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again

    I rode in on a Greyhound,
    I’ll be walkin’ out if I go
    I was just passin’ through
    Must be seven months or more
    Ran out of time and money
    Looks like they took my friends
    Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again

    The man from the magazine
    Said I was on my way
    Somewhere I lost connection
    Ran out of songs to play
    I came into town on a one-night stand
    Looks like my plans fell through
    Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again

    If I only had a dollar
    For every song I’ve sung
    And every time I’ve had to play
    While people sat there drunk
    You know I’d catch the next train
    Back to where I live
    Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again

  • Todd

    With the new changes, other faiths can offer invocations, too. So can the non-religious. But I can see this easily getting out of hand. What will the reaction be when someone praises Allah pre-meeting? Can someone bring up Xenu? Thor?

    Frankly, I root for these sorts of things to get out hand. Really, really, really out of hand. Until Christians understand why separation of Church and State is important, they have to be subjected to the most outrageous blasphemy and intensive humiliation that we can muster.

    Bring on the Church of the SubGenius.

  • They’re just pushing for the inevitable lawsuit so they can cry about how “persecuted” they are. As if prayers in Jesus’ name are required for city business to get done.

  • James

    Hemant writes:

    “This story is getting a lot of attention from Christians everywhere… I wonder how many of them could tell you what issues are discussed at the council meetings post-prayer. Do they know? Do they care? Doubtful. The prayer is all that’s important to them. Not anything of real substance.”

    It’s also getting attention from atheists everywhere. I wonder how many of them could tell you what issues are discussed at council meetings post-prayer.

    What point are you even trying to make here, Hemant?

  • Hemant writes:

    “This story is getting a lot of attention from Christians everywhere… I wonder how many of them could tell you what issues are discussed at the council meetings post-prayer. Do they know? Do they care? Doubtful. The prayer is all that’s important to them. Not anything of real substance.”

    It’s also getting attention from atheists everywhere. I wonder how many of them could tell you what issues are discussed at council meetings post-prayer.

    What point are you even trying to make here, Hemant?

    The atheists are talking about the Christian reaction to this story.

    The Christians are worked up because the prayers can now be said “In Jesus’ Name” and there are rational people opposed to that.

    The atheists aren’t concerned with the prayers. We’re concerned with the city council addressing whatever issues are important to the citizens of Lodi. I don’t know what those issues are, but I would hope any city council spends time talking about their local issues.

    The Christians *only* seem to be concerned about the prayers and not the substance of the meetings. From reading the articles and hearing what they have to say, it almost sounds like they could care less if a meeting took place as long as a prayer was said beforehand.

    That’s a problem.

  • And people say we don’t do crazy in California. Well we do it just fine.

  • Michael

    A similar lawsuit (notice two different links there) has occurred in North Carolina’s Forsyth County, my home county. While certainly not binding on federal courts in California, a ruling in the Joyner case should be instructive as to how another court will rule.

    Oral arguments on cross-summary judgment motions are scheduled for next week, October 14 at 10:30AM in Courtroom G1A of the U.S. Courthouse at 324 W. Market Street in Greensboro. As almost all court proceedings are, these arguments will be open to the public. I plan to attend, and I encourage other North Carolinians interested in this issue to attend as well.

    If you want copies of the briefs or other court documents, drop me an e-mail (sqfreak at g mail dot com) because I think I have copies of them or can at least get them.

  • I gotta agree with Todd here. I hope it gets plenty of airtime and gobs of fundies waving banners – before an FFRF suit shuts it down.

    Just part of the ongoing process of educating these people.

  • muggle

    I’d rather see the courts have the balls to decide what they should in the first place but, failing that, I too second Todd. Every time the court fails to do what it should, let a flood of prayer/nonsense they find offensive give them a taste of their own medicine.

  • the Lodi (California) City Council voted unanimously, 5-0, to allow uncensored prayers before meetings.

    It says “uncensored.” Would that also include something like an atheist’s “prayer” just like what happened at a Cobb County board meeting in Georgia?

    Atheist Delivers Invocation at Cobb County Board Meeting