Prayer prior to council meetings became a topic of discussion in the aftermath of a letter sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin, which urged the council in a July letter to end the practice of praying before its meetings.
The council Tuesday said they would retain their practice of praying before council meetings, but decided to clarify their policy.
So the council voted to send letters to several dozen religious organizations, the vast majority Christian churches but also to the Tracy Islamic Center, the Baha’i Faith, and the Sant Nirankari Mission, inviting them to participate in the invocation.
“We thought it was important to do some outreach to the community,” said City Attorney Dan Sodergren.
Another letter will be given to those who sign up to give the invocation, outlining the law, and pointing out that the person who leads the prayer is speaking on behalf of the city and not as a private citizen, and because of that there are limits on what the person is supposed to say based on court cases and the U.S. Constitution.
In California, a court of appeal ruled in 2002 that a prayer “that invoked the name of Jesus Christ violated” the principal that the bars the government from establishing a religion.
“We’re asking them that they keep that in mind when they’re speaking on behalf of the city and that they don’t do that,” Sodergren said.
If someone does mention Jesus Christ, “Right now, there’s nothing that would happen,” the city attorney said.
The city attorney also said the city will likely continue its practice of asking the Tracy Ministerial Association to find people to give the invocation on days when no one has signed up.