Thou shalt not use the name of the Lord thy God in city council meetings, Longview, Wash., Mayor Don Jensen has declared.
Why? Because a lawyer told him to, naturally:
“It’s not my choice to stop this, but I don’t know how we can put our citizens at jeopardy and cost our city and our citizens a lot of money,” he said, following consultations with the city attorney who advised of the potential for lawsuits for invoking Jesus Christ at the meeting, The Associated Press reports.
The backlash from churches was immediate.
“They’re asking us not to do what we’re [called] to do,” said Mark Schmutz, pastor of Northlake Baptist Church and the president of Kelso-Longview Ministerial Association, in the AP reports. Mr. Schmutz said association ministers would no longer provide the opening prayer at the city’s meetings.
“This is the one and only true God, and so we’re not trying to be against anybody — we’re just being clear about what we’re for,” he said, to AP.
The Longview City Council has opened with Christian-based prayer since the 1950s, AP reports. Recently, Longview resident Dan Smith, 69, filed a complaint and threatened court action over the invocation of Jesus Christ, AP said. Mr. Smith, AP reports, describes himself as a “very comfortable atheist” who’s put up with the public prayer for years.