Though Christian ministers have often offered invocations before governmental meetings, the federal courts have consistently ruled that the prayers must be non-sectarian. In Dumfries, this led town leaders in 2010 to pass a resolution specifically advising anyone offering the invocation that “Prayers may not be addressed to ‘Jesus,’ ‘Christ,’ or any variation on those names. A prayer is ‘addressed’ to Jesus if it contains the phrase, ‘in Jesus’ name we pray’ or anything similar.”
Now some in Dumfries are having second thoughts, according to Uriah Kiser of PotomacLocal.com. Councilman Jerry Foreman has submitted a new resolution deleting the specific mentions of Jesus and Christ cited above. “By amending this language the resolution stays non-denominational. It doesn’t specifically call one religious leader or one religion out,” Foreman said in Kiser’s piece.
Prince William County also adopted a similar policy, InsideNova.com reported last year, instructing speakers that “invocations should not include references to religious figures such as Jesus Christ, to images such as a crucifix, or to teaching from such sources as the Koran or the Book of Mormon.”
The Dumfries council was hesitant to take on such a momentous issue shortly before the May 1 council and mayoral elections, and instead named a committee to review the issue, Kiser reported. He said Councilwoman Michele Jurgensen offered this analysis: “When I was elected I put my hand on the Bible to uphold the Constitution, I did not put my hand on the Constitution to uphold the Bible.”