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Jesus Takes Spotlight at City Council

San Juan officials are set to discuss whether prayers at the beginning of their meetings should invoke the name of specific deities.

Jesus Takes Spotlight at City Council

First it was a dog named Muhammad. Now it's a son named Jesus.

Religion is back on the agenda at .

San Juan Capistrano council members in September after Councilman Derek Reeve announced he had . Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly even

That same month, the city made national and international headlines when it .

Although the fine was eventually withdrawn, the council is still grappling with how to handle large assemblies in residential areas. On Tuesday’s agenda, the council will discuss writing a new city law to address the issue.

But on the same agenda is a discussion about whether the  invocation given at the beginning of meetings should refrain from using the name of specific deities.

Council members take turns giving the invocation. Reeve announced at the Dec. 6 meeting that, from now on, he would like a member of the community to take his place. He said he was looking forward to inviting people of different faiths to participate.

Reeve then invited resident Gary Stache to offer the prayer. Stache is a leader in the .

Later during the meeting, Councilman Sam Allevato took issue with the invocation.

“I have no problem with the message. He did call upon the ‘Son of the Lord,’ which would be referring to a specific religion,” Allevato said. The councilman then requested all invocations to be “generic and nondenominational” out of respect of people of all religions.

“I don’t want us to get in trouble with the ACLU needlessly,” he said.

But Reeve, an attorney, said the law is on his side. In a report the council will consider Tuesday, he presented a court ruling that supported the city of Lancaster's use of an invocation made “in the precious, holy and righteous and matchless name of Jesus.”

A Jewish man and a Christian woman sued the high-desert city, but a federal district judge said they failed to prove the city violated the anti-establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Because the ruling is not from an appellate court, it does not set precedent in the West, but it does reference other cases that do, including a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said legislative prayer holds a special place in government, and courts should not “embark on a sensitive evaluation or … parse the content of a particular prayer.”

Reeve pointed to the .

“I would like to discuss whether a policy needs to be established regarding the appropriateness of merely mentioning a deity (Jesus, Allah, etc.) during an invocation that does not rise to proselytizing,” Reeve wrote in a memo to the council.

The council meets for open-session items at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 32400 Paseo Adelanto, San Juan Capistrano.

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