Ignoring legal counsel and concerns about a possible lawsuit, a majority of the Coolidge City Council voted Monday to amend a resolution that would allow prayers before council meetings, including a stipulation that they be Christian.
Council members Steve Hudson, Rob Hudelson, Gary Lewis and Tatiana Murrieta all voted in favor of the Christian-only stipulation to the resolution, which was originally written to include ministers from any faith represented within the city limits. Mayor Jon Thompson and Councilman Gilbert Lopez voted against the amended resolution, with Vice Mayor Jacque Henry absent.
The underlying measure, as well as the amendment authorizing only Christian invocations, were moved by councilmember Rob Hudelson. His biography from the Council's home page -
During the meeting, Councilmember Hudelson argued that the move isn't unconstitutional because the First Amendment restriction against the establishment of an official religion only refers to Congress, not city councils.
The US Supreme Court has been known to disagree, but Hudelson thinks that the Supreme Court can be ignored when he doesn't like a particular decision.
Based on a brief phone call to the City Manager's office in Coolidge, the measure isn't final yet. There is a special meeting scheduled for next Monday where the measure is scheduled to be approved again (agenda not posted on the City's website of this writing).
The measure is being brought back because the "Christian-only" amendment conflicts with other language in the measure; the City Attorney wanted to clean up the conflicts.
Assuming it is reapproved, the measure will go into effect 30 days later.
According to their official budget, Coolidge spent $259,858 from its contingency fund during the FY2014/2015 fiscal year; if the measure is passed again, expect that number to increase dramatically for FY2015/2016.
Litigation gets expensive, in a hurry.