Cuyahoga Falls City Council's chaplain said despite public opinions he has no plans to change the way he prays at council's next meeting on Monday
Since a public forum that took place on March 3, Councilman Terry Mader said he sought advice from friends and clergy. Several of them advised him to stop naming Jesus when he prays. He said he can't do that.
"If I, as a Christian, am embarrassed to share his name, then He is going to be embarrassed in recognizing me in my relationship with Him," Mader said, adding his relationship with Jesus is more important than any fear of offending someone in the audience.
Mader said the forum itself went smoothly and he respects everything that was said and appreciates everyone who participated. Mader said he took away two messages that night: one, that the Freedom from Religion Organization is opposed to any prayer of any kind and, two, that most of those who support the prayer support it "as long as I leave the name of Christ or Jesus out of it."
As a citizen, Mader said, his right to pray is protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Mader said when he prays at council meetings he doesn't assume to represent everyone on council. He said he has never said, "In Jesus' name we pray, amen," only, "In Jesus' name, or Christ's name, amen."
Concerns were raised last month when city council received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation informing its members they were violating the U.S. Constitution and could be sued if they didn't stop using taxpayer time to pray.
And these concerns were discussed in a public forum attended by more than 100 people and moderated by Councilman Vic Pallotta, chairman of council's public affairs committee, on March 3.
Four people spoke in opposition to the invocation as it is currently being presented during Council meetings by Mader.
"When someone invokes a prayer at a public meeting that is meant to include everyone at the meeting and the prayer ends with words like 'in Christ's name' [or] 'in Jesus' name,' I feel left out," said Sheryl of Cuyahoga Falls, who professed to be Jewish. "… I feel that the city is sending the message to me that I don't belong there."
Aronson said she believes a prayer at the beginning of a meeting can help get everyone focused. She suggested reciting a general prayer for guidance followed by a moment of silence.
"It's my opinion this activity violates laws pertaining to separation of church and state," said Dr. David Aronson. "… the most objectionable practice regarding opening prayers before a governmental meeting is when the prayers 'contain explicit references to a particular deity' or other symbolic religious language, and this is what our city is doing."
Dr. Aronson said he believes in praying at the church or synagogue but understands many want to hear a spiritually uplifting message prior to a public meeting. He suggested a "religiously neutral message that includes all members of our city rather than excluding members."
"Prayer is a fundamental right of every citizen of the United States of America, should they choose to do so," said Ted Shure of Cuyahoga Falls, president of Summit Christian School Board. "The members of the Freedom from Religion Organization are attempting to break this down. No one is forcing them to pray nor should they force us not to pray. The Organization has no vested interest in our community."
One of four who spoke in support of Council's prayer, Shure, said he was modifying what he had planned to say after taking under consideration other people's comments. "I believe the things that I've heard are true and we need to be inclusive of everybody. Perhaps the prayer could have that moment of silence or perhaps the prayer could simply say 'in God's name' because we are one nation under God."
"While legislative prayer may offend some -- I acknowledge that -- it in no way violates the Constitution," said Chris McCombs, pastor of Broadman Baptist Church. "However the removal of prayer would do more than offend some … It would send a message that we won't stand on principle, but that we would cower to the threats of bullies."
"I am an evangelical pastor," said Thomas Bloom, pastor of Community of Believers, "and I believe that prayer is essential, important and necessary, but I also believe that Christian charity, tolerance and acceptance of those of other faiths would require us to demonstrate charity in these matters. While I think that prayer is essential, I am not insisting it must be prayer in the name of Christ, but it must be prayer in the name of God."