Annie Laurie Gaylor, head of the Wisconsin based Freedom From Religion Foundation: "Other minority religions might be very small, but there is more variety than there used to be. They are being told by their city government they are not the right religion. They are told to stand, and bow their head when somebody prays to Jesus."
In Lodi, California, city council meetings always open with a prayer, and non-Christians who attend these sessions are expected to suck it up and bow their heads to Jesus. Gaylor says of city leaders: "They've been warned and told not to do it. If they refuse, it means they want to promote religion through their city government." This shopworn practice of municipally sanctioned prayer may soon be challenged in the courts. It won't be the first time advocates for church-state separation have sought legal intervention.
FFRF has filed more than forty lawsuits since 1978. From Lodi News: Over the years, the foundation has challenged the New Hampshire Congress and three local school districts in the state for saying "under God" during the Pledge of Allegiance, succeeded in eliminating Good Friday as a state holiday in Wisconsin, and recently filed a suit in South Carolina against a school that gives academic credits for the time students are voluntarily released for religious instruction. The biggest pending case the group has is a challenge to the federal statute creating the National Day of Prayer. The lawsuit also includes challenges to the prayer proclamations that President Barack Obama, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle made for the day and the activities the National Day of Prayer Task Force organized, which is headed by Shirley Dobson.
The situation in Lodi has sparked strong feelings among those on both sides of the issue. A team of lawyers from American Defense Fund are preparing to defend the city's right to impose its preferred religion on others, citing the Supreme Court case Marsh v. Chambers that says public prayers evoking the name of Jesus Christ are allowable. It promises to be a costly endeavor.
And now two far-right Christian extremists have entered the fray, vowing to "put Lodi on the map." Wiley Drake, a Southern Baptist preacher, and former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, plan to travel to California and demand that city council members continue to allow prayers in Jesus' name. Kyle at Right Wing Watch writes: For those who don't recall, back in April, Klingenschmitt issued a call for "imprecatory prayer" against employees at Americans United, calling on God to curse them and destroy their homes, livelihoods, and families. And just last month, Wiley Drake, who once issued his own imprecatory prayer against AU, declared that he was praying for the death of President Barack Obama.
The issue is expected to be taken up at a city council meeting on August 5th. I doubt that Lodi's city fathers will enjoy being "put on the map" by Christians as unhinged as Drake and Klingenschmitt, who've been known to attach themselves to causes like barnacles on a rotting pier.