In May, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation urged the City Council not to allow invocations at City Council meetings to end “in Jesus’ name.” This week, opposing sides of the issue rallied in front of the bi-monthly City Council meeting to express their views, and the City Council is expected to hear public sentiment on the issue again in late September. Lodi is located about 35 miles south of Sacramento.
In the memo from Pacific Justice Institute, which is based in Sacramento, Chief Counsel Kevin Snider discussed leading cases involving public invocations and encouraged the Council to adopt a neutral policy allowing ministers and other members of the public to open the meetings with prayer or other comments, free of any censorship by the Council. Under such an approach, prayers in Jesus’ name could not be singled out for exclusion. PJI also offered to represent the Council at no charge. In a federal case in Washington, D.C., PJI is currently defending Revs. Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery, who were sued by atheists for offering public prayers at President Obama’s inauguration.
Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, “It is simply un-American for the government to censor speech, including the mention of God or Jesus, by private citizens in a public setting. We are offering the City of Lodi a practical, constitutional solution to this needless controversy so the out-of-state special interests can fold their tents and go home.”