There’s an old saying that applies to right-wing Christians: give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile. The profoundly backwards SCOTUS ruling that allowed for prayer at city hall meetings last year was giving them an inch. Now, one small city in Arizona is coming for the mile — and has garnered the attention of the ACLU in the process.
Last May, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that gave city councils and other government functions the right to open with explicitly Christian prayer.
In the ruling, Justice Kagan wrote that:
When citizens of this country approach their government, they do so only as Americans, not as a members of one faith or another. And that means that even in a partly legislative body, they should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along religious lines.
Christian-Americans, however, tuned all that out — especially those ones in the town of Coolidge, Arizona, who’ve decided the only prayers that need to be held before a meeting are Christian prayers.
Christian-style Sharia Law
On Monday, a resolution that would allow all religious groups the ability to open city council meetings with prayer was put before the city council of Coolidge, Arizona.
This wasn’t good enough for Councilman Rob Hudelson, though. The Baptist pastor, either oblivious to the SCOTUS ruling or deliberately ignoring it, asked for a change to the resolution, restricting the right to pray before city council meetings to Christians only.
The modified resolution, discriminating against other religions, passed by a 4-2 vote.
While speaking to the AP, Councilman Gary Lewis said that he’d “walk away” if there were any prayers other than Christian ones said in his presence:
Under my faith, I wouldn’t sit here and listen to it. I would walk away.
So the solution is not to have any prayers at all, regardless of religion. But that never set in with the city council, even though they’re being warned that this will lead to lawsuits if approved.
City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons said of the resolution, “As long as they all have a fair opportunity to come and give an invocation, then it’s going to be legal.” But that’s not the case here, and when Fitzgibbons warned of the inevitable lawsuit, Hudelson bunkered down, telling Fitzgibbons the city paid him “to avoid us getting into these problems.”
Hudelson insisted that it was our “heritage” and that we shouldn’t “be ashamed:”
That’s our heritage, we should not be ashamed of it, nor should we be pushed into a corner because 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.
The Arizona ALCU has already stepped into the fight, sending the city a letter warning that it was in violation of the First Amendment if it approved the rule.
The legal director, Victoria Lopez, told AZCentral, “There isn’t a legal question. It’s problematic on First Amendment grounds, certainly, and it seems like a really bad policy position to take” and “They are creating a policy that will advocate for a particular religion” which sends the message that other religions aren’t welcome in government affairs.
Perhaps Hudelson and the others would do well to actually read their Bible rather than thump it in everyone’s face:
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
Which, in this case, will be the full text of a lawsuit.
Feature image via Coolidge city website