Escondido’s Sectarian City Council Prayers Violate Constitution

SAN DIEGO – The Escondido City Council is violating the constitutional principle of separation of church and state by engaging in sectarian prayers during the “Moment of Reflection” at the beginning of each council meeting, according to a demand letter sent by the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties today.

For the last several months, the “Moment of Reflection” has contained expressly Christian invocations, in clear violation of the state and federal Constitutions. For example:

  • “Father, we thank you . . . . We just praise you and thank you for what you’re going to do in Jesus’ name.” (1/26/11)
  • “Heavenly father, we come before you today with grateful hearts . . . . We ask all of these things in your precious son’s name.” (2/16/11)
  • “God our Father, we bow before you today, recognizing your authority here, in our city, in this chamber . . . those that protect us in Jesus’ name.” (4/13/11)
  • “Father, it’s a joy to come before you before this council meeting. We ask that you would give to each member your wisdom, the wisdom maybe that you gave to Solomon . . . . [W]e ask your blessing upon them, in Jesus’ name. Amen.” (5/4/11)

The council’s consistent pattern of allowing Christian prayers in its “Moment of Reflection” illegally endorses and promotes Christian religious beliefs. Under the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution and the No Preference and No Aid Clauses of the California Constitution, the City of Escondido may not promote or affiliate itself with any religious doctrine or organization.

“The government has no business endorsing any religion,” said David Blair-Loy, legal director of the San Diego ACLU. “Our Constitution protects freedom of conscience best by keeping government out of religion.”

The San Diego ACLU sent a demand letter to the council today on behalf of an Escondido resident who regularly observes city council meetings and the opening invocations. The ACLU is asking that the council immediately cease violating the state and federal Constitutions.

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Read the ACLU Letter to City Council

/wp-content/uploads/article/2011 07 14 City Response.pdf”>2011 07 14 City Response.pdf

Read our Follow-Up Response