On Sept. 30, the Lodi City Council unanimously voted to allow members of all denominations, religious sects and groups to offer unrestricted and uncensored invocations before City Council meetings.
Their decision was reached based on their own personal religious beliefs and their fear of offending a majority, rather than defending the rights of minorities (they, too, are voters, taxpayers and residents of Lodi, unlike some council members who referred to those who differ from the majority as "out-of-towners").
The council also solicited legal advice from several attorneys representing a group led by a gentleman who heads some of the most bigoted and intolerant organizations and coalitions in Lodi, Mr. Ken Owen.
Our city attorney began his remarks expressing his reluctance to advise his clients (the council) in a public forum for obvious reasons: Anything you say can and will be used against the clients. His advice was ignored.
Our form of government is a republic, which offers equal rights to all, unlike a democracy, where the majority rules.
Many government bodies either begin their sessions with invocations offered by professional chaplains or a properly ordained clergyperson. These invocations are unrestricted and uncensored, but are inclusive and inspirational; not exclusive. This, I believe, is the proper way of achieving the goal of invoking the wisdom of the Supreme Being, ensuring the protection of non-believers.
Allowing untrained people to "ramble on" (as it was the case during the meeting) infringes the religious rights of many who consider such unrestrained devotions "proselytizing on government time."
Although the majority of Lodians are believers of the Christian faith, Lodi is not a Christian city. I am sadly disappointed at the council's decision, and their cowardice to refuse to defend all those who elected them, many of whom don't share their religious faith.
Rabbi Dr. Raphael Pazo