COOLIDGE, Ariz. — City Council members in Arizona have voted to move forward with a proposal to allow only Christian prayers at city hall meetings.
The Coolidge City Council voted 4-2 on Monday with one member absent to have attorney Dennis Fitzgibbons provide draft language and counsel as to how the concept might be carried out.
Councilman Rob Hudelson, a Baptist minister, had proposed the idea as the council was considering a resolution to allow religious groups in the area to present a prayer, message or moment of silence during meetings. According to reports, Coolidge currently has been absent any invocations since 2007, when interest from local clergy faded out.
Hudelson pointed to the nation’s Christian history in making the motion.
“I think it’s very important,” he stated. “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,” Hudelson continued. “We should not be ashamed of it, nor should we be pushed into a corner because of Supreme Court decisions. The first prayer in Congress ended by saying, ‘Thy Son, our Savior, based on the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior; Amen.”
But some objected to the idea, including Mayor Jon Thompson, who is a professing Christian.
“I’m not willing to get the city of Coolidge sued over an invocation,” he said. “We’re stepping into territory that might lead us into litigation. I don’t want to bring us any more problems.”
Thompson said that he would allow those of other faiths to present their prayers, and if he objects to the content of their invocations, he “wouldn’t pay attention.”
Councilman Gilbert Lopez likewise rejected the idea, citing a possible violation of the oath of office.
But when the vote was taken, council members Steve Hudson, Gary Lewis and Tatiana Murrieta all sided with Hudelson. But Lewis says that he won’t vote for the resolution when it is re-introduced for a vote.
“I’ve had conversations with many people in the public, including local pastors,” he told the Arizona Republic. “And while many agree that it was a good idea, it is not something that would be [legally] successful, and I agree with that. I don’t agree with anything that would bring that much litigation towards the city.”
Fitzgibbons is currently amending the resolution as desired but has stated that he likewise fears a lawsuit.
“That’s why we pay him,” Hudson stated, “To avoid us getting into these problems.”
A vote is expected on Sept. 28.