Prayers 'in Jesus' name allowed at City Council meetings


LODI, Calif. — Pastors offering public prayers to open Lodi City Council meetings will be allowed to use the words "in Jesus' name," after the municipal body voted unanimously to cease a previous ban on the language.

An atheist watchdog group from Wisconsin has threatened a lawsuit to block the new policy.

The Sept. 30 vote came after months of lobbying, petitioning, protesting, and pro-Jesus rallies, both in Central Valley's Lodi and nationwide, organized by The Pray in Jesus Name Project.

Also this month three other California cities—Tehachapi, Tracy and Turlock—voted unanimously to allow the "in Jesus' name" prayers, despite the threat of lawsuits.

"This victory should inspire legislators across America that 85 percent of polled voters want you to allow public prayers 'in Jesus' name,' even in public venues," said former U.S. Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who led a pre-vote rally in Lodi that drew more than 400 people earlier in the month. "Don't cave in to empty threats of lawsuits by atheist complainers. Christian voters will rally to support you, and Jesus is not an illegal word!"

Klingenschmitt was dismissed from the Navy in 2007 for refusing to omit the phrase "in Jesus' name" during on-the-job prayers. On his Web site, the chaplain suggests that the unanimous vote came after his Pray in Jesus' Name Project threatened to run billboard ads naming any council member who voted against the new policy. Klingenschmitt said the plan helped to sway the vote of Lodi Mayor Larry Hansen.

"Although the mayor complained of our plan, and called us unchristian names, we're grateful for his change of heart. Whatever his reasons, he voted for Jesus and free speech in the end. Perhaps the success of our billboard plan proves Ronald Reagan's adage: 'When you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat.'"

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