According to the Daily Courier, a rabbi was forced out of a Chino Valley council meeting on February 9 when she interrupted the council’s Christian invocation twice.
Rabbi Adele Plotkin of Chino Valley’s Beit Torah congregation protested when Chino Valley mayor and part-time minister Chris Marley performed a Christian prayer before the meeting.
Plotkin said she had no choice but to speak up, because her religion considered it idolatrous to appear to approve of prayers to Jesus Christ.
The rabbi accused Mayor Marley of lying, saying he went back on past statements to forgo the council’s traditional opening prayer.
Plotkin appears to be right.
In January, Marley said he would not perform the prayer at the February 9 council meeting until council members had a chance to discuss how they wanted to perform future invocations. He confirmed his intentions with the media later in the month.
Rabbi Plotkin, who wanted to attend the meeting in order to discuss the council’s invocations, spoke to a Chino Valley Review reporter before the February 9 meeting in order to make sure there would be no invocation. Plotkin said she could not attend if the council planned on praying to Jesus.
The reporter confirmed the council would forgo its opening prayer.
Marley, however, decided to go ahead with the invocation, claiming some council members said he should do it.
The encounter between Marley and Plotkin was caught on tape.
In the video, Marley explains that the invocation is “solely the expression of the religious belief of the speaker” and “not an endowment of the beliefs of the rest of the council.”
Before he can begin his prayer, though, Rabbi Plotkin interrupts him, saying she cannot risk Marley “excluding” her.
Marley asks Plotkin to sit down and warns her that she will be escorted out by the master of arms if she interrupts again.
After repeating that the prayer is solely the expression of his beliefs, Marley then begins his invocation. However, by the time the word “amen” leaves the council members’ mouths, Plotkin again interrupts, saying she was “disrespected.”
Marley then has Plotkin escorted out. The rabbi refuses to let the officer touch her, but she goes willingly. She later told the media that the officers were “sweet as pie.”
Mayor Marley defended his prayer, saying it was protected by his First Amendment rights.
“Our Bill of Rights protects us against the establishment of religion by the state, and yet it would appear that secular humanism with its mantra of political correctness has become just that, the state established religion which the First Amendment was supposed to protect us against.”
He continued by saying that the council’s “oath of office requires that we defend the Constitution, and yet we are being asked to give up our right to freely worship according to the dictates of conscious [sic].”
The council, which consists of six Christians and one non-Christian, stated they would continue their traditional prayer. Marley said that those who did not like it could vote the council out.
Many, indeed, did not approve of the Chino Valley town council’s invocation.
Madeline Ziegler, a legal fellow at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, disagreed with Mayor Marley’s interpretation of the Bill of Rights. In a letter to the Town of Chino Valley, Ziegler said the government “does not have freedom of religion.”
“In fact,” she continued, “the Supreme Court has repeatedly stated, the ‘First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.'”
The Daily Kos reacted to mayor’s invocation by quoting Matthew 6:1 – 6:7, verses it believes criticize public prayer and display the virtues of private prayer.
Rabbi Plotkin is communicating with the American Civil Liberties Union, who is reportedly interested in Chino Valley’s invocation policy.
The rabbi said she will not let the issue go.
[Image via Lance Bellers/Shutterstock]