A California city has been accused of wrongfully ordering two chaplains to stop praying in the name of Jesus Christ, which a legal group argues violates their religious freedom.

The First Liberty Institute sent a complaint letter to the Carlsbad City Council on Tuesday regarding the City Manager Scott Chadwick allegedly ordering fire chaplain Denny Cooper and police chaplain J.C. Cooper to stop praying in Jesus’ name.

According to the letter, Chadwick told the chaplains of a new standard in separate conversations in April.


“Because the chaplains cannot in good conscience erase the name of Jesus from their prayers, this order deprives first responders of the solace and spiritual strength that the Chaplains’ volunteer ministry has provided for nearly two decades,” the letter reads.

“Therefore, we urge the City Council to return to its longstanding practice of inviting the Chaplains to pray freely in accordance with their sincere religious beliefs.”

FLI Counsel Kayla Toney, who authored the letter, told The Christian Post via email that the institute became aware of the situation through a “former client who we helped with a different religious liberty issue.”

Toney took issue with the city manager’s reported argument that praying in Jesus’ name constituted harassment of non-Christians and created a hostile work environment.

“This is not a true or accurate understanding of the law, which has always protected the prayers and expressions of religious Americans,” she said. “Ironically, the city manager’s order has created a hostile environment for the Chaplains and many other people of faith living in Carlsbad.”

Toney believes that while “we do see increasing hostility toward people of faith” in the United States, the laws were “changing in a positive direction.”

“In Kennedy v. Bremerton, the Supreme Court overruled the ‘Lemon Test’ which was used to purge expressions of faith from public life,” Toney explained.

“Now the Court looks to history and tradition, and our nation has a long tradition of public prayers by chaplains according to their sincere religious beliefs. So there’s a lot of work left to do, but also good reason for hope.

The Christian Post reached out to city officials for a response to the complaint letter. They did not return comment by press time.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Town of Greece v. Galloway that a New York town could have ministers pray Christian invocations as part of their official meetings.

Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the court’s opinion, concluding that “legislative prayer, while religious in nature, has long been understood as compatible with the Establishment Clause.”


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