Tracy clarifies prayer policy
September 17, 2009
Jennie Rodriguez — Recordnet.com
For years, City Council meetings have started with a prayer traditionally performed by a Christian leader. The prayers usually invoke the name of Jesus Christ.
This week, the city will send letters to Tracy’s 65 churches of all faiths clarifying its policy on inclusive prayers. The council is responding to a national organization that fights for the separation of church and state.
Participating Tracy churches will receive a letter that encourages prayers to be “accessible” to people of various backgrounds and faiths, while other congregations will receive a letter also inviting them to take part in the invocation tradition.
The city took action after receiving a notice from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, urging the council to discontinue invocations that reference Christianity.
The foundation’s letter to Tracy is one in a series to city halls across the nation that hold invocations with specific religious references.
Lodi also has been warned by the organization.
Other cities in California that have received letters are Turlock and Tehachapi.
In Tracy, prayerful invocations have “been a long tradition,” City Attorney Daniel Sodergren said Tuesday.
“Right now, we’re not recommending any changes to the policy,” Sodergren said. But he recommended that the city make clear its existing rules which support broader approaches to prayer.
With only one person speaking out against the adjustment, council members on Tuesday unanimously voted to move forward with a plan to promote such prayers.