The Coolidge City Council in Arizona (below) passed a resolution this week saying it would have invocation prayers at all future meetings.
We’ve seen this play out many times now. Yes, invocations are legal, but they must be inclusive. Atheists, Satanists, Hindus, Mormons, and everyone else must be allowed to deliver those prayers.
The leaders in Coolidge don’t care about that “inclusivity” nonsense, though. While passing their resolution, they included an amendment that said only Christians could deliver the prayers:
Councilmembers Steve Hudson, Rob Hudelson, Gary Lewis and Tatiana Murrieta all voted in favor of the Christian-only stipulation to the resolution, which was originally written to include all ministers from any faith within the city limits. Mayor Jon Thompson and councilmember Gilbert Lopez voted against the amended resolution, with Vice Mayor Jacque Henry absent.
Speaking last was Hudelson, who himself is a preacher. He made clear his views that the United States is a Christian nation.
“I think it’s very important,” Hudelson said. “We just proclaimed Constitution Week. You know what was said at the end of the [Revolutionary] war? A treaty in Paris that said ‘In the name of the most holy and undivided trinity.’ You don’t get that from the Quran. You get it from the Bible. You get it from Christianity. That’s our heritage.”
What’s incredible is how this wasn’t a vote made by fully ignorant people. They were all well aware of the legal consequences of their actions. Some of the city council members were adamant this was illegal, that they would lose any lawsuit filed against them, and that it would cost the taxpayers a lot of money.
But who cares about taxpayers’ wallets when you’re on a crusade for Jesus?
“We’re stepping into territory that might lead us into litigation,” Thompson said. “I don’t want to bring us any more problems.”
“I’m not going to get the taxpayers sued,” Thompson said. “If I had a problem with what was being said during the prayer, I wouldn’t pay attention. … We’re going to knowingly become involved in litigation that we cannot afford.”
“That’s why we pay him,” Hudson said, pointing to [City Attorney Denis] Fitzgibbons. “To avoid us getting into these problems.”
To that, Fitzgibbons responded, “Oh, you’ll get into this problem.”
Even though the motion (with the Christian-only amendment) was passed on a 4-2 vote, it won’t be finalized for 30 days. Fitzgibbons can use that time to rewrite the resolution to take into consideration the wishes of the councilmembers while making sure it’s following the law.
He won’t be able to do both.
Some councils have worked around this “problem” by limiting the kinds of groups that can deliver the invocations, by saying things like they have to have a building in the city (which minority groups don’t usually have) or be an IRS-approved non-profit group. (In one recent case, several minority faiths banded together to form an interfaith group for the sole purpose of delivering a non-Christian invocation.)
Either way, if the amendment isn’t fixed, there will be a lawsuit. I’m sure the Satanic Temple has members in Coolidge. I know the Freedom From Religion Foundation has residents in Arizona…
In the meantime, if you’d like to remind the councilmembers how the law works, you can find their email addresses right here. Be sure to focus on the four members who voted for the resolution — and don’t be a jerk about it.
(via Religion Clause. Thanks to Lex for the link)