Modesto County Lawyer Questions Legality of Christian Prayers Before City Council Meetings

August 30, 2005

Source: The Modesto Bee

On August 30, 2005 The Modesto Bee reported, "An attorney says the long-standing practice of invoking Jesus Christ in prayers before Modesto City Council meetings offends other faiths and violates constitutional law separating church and state.

While Richard Herman, a Modesto criminal defense lawyer, supports the idea of prayer at government meetings, specific Christian references go too far, he says.

'I'm a citizen of Modesto and I'm Jewish,' Herman said. 'I don't pray to Jesus Christ, I pray to God. This practice offends me on a personal level, and No. 2, it's illegal.'

Herman, a well-known attorney who ran for council in 1999, voiced his concerns at a council meeting in April, saying that any prayer before public meetings should not cite a particular religion... Councilman Brad Hawn, a church-going Christian who occasionally delivers the invocation, said he supports different viewpoints, but restrictions on what can be said during prayer can offend the beliefs of the person delivering the prayer... Herman said the prayer issue isn't just symbolic. He said it speaks to the council's acceptance of an increasingly diverse community. He said he is awaiting a response from the city attorney's office before deciding whether to file a lawsuit, but won't wait long."