City Manager Bans 'Jesus' from Prayers, Says It's Harassing, Hostile to Use Name: Report


CORRECTION, May 30, 2024: J.C. and Denny Cooper reportedly were told not to use Jesus’ name in their prayers. An earlier version of this article had a different last name for the father and son chaplains.

There’s an old story about an Arab and his camel. One bitterly cold night, the Arab allowed the camel to get its nose inside his tent to get warm. The camel then managed to get its head and neck inside. Eventually, the camel got its whole body into the tent, forcing the Arab himself outside in the cold.

Like the Arab or the proverbial frog in boiling water, we are slowly being pushed further and further away from the values on which our nation was founded. Will we notice and take action before it is too late?

In California, more and more public schools are adding yoga to their curriculums, according to Ed Source, a nonprofit connected to the state’s education system.

Yoga is an ancient Indian spiritual practice, and the word “om” that is often happily chanted at yoga classes is used while worshiping and practicing several different Eastern faiths, according to Wisdom Library, a resource on Eastern religions.

But while chanting an ancient call to Indian gods is perfectly acceptable and even encouraged in California, a city manager in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego, was not so “tolerant” of the word “Jesus,” even when spoken by Christian chaplains.

What's the Deal with Fear?

The situation unfolded after J.C. Cooper, a volunteer police chaplain, concluded a prayer at an awards ceremony with “in Jesus’ name,” according to The Washington Times.

This prompted a response from Carlsbad City Manager Scott Chadwick, who sent a letter to Cooper and his father, Denny Cooper, who is also a volunteer chaplain, telling them not to use the name of Jesus in their prayers.

According to attorney Kayla Toney of the First Liberty Institute, a legal nonprofit dedicated to protecting religious liberty, Chadwick informed the Coopers that uttering the name “Jesus” during such public events was “considered harassment, created a hostile work environment, and lifted one religion above another.”

Chadwick allegedly told J.C. Cooper that while he could pray using any other name or term for God,” the specific use of “Jesus” would not be permitted going forward.

If the charges are true, should the city manager be removed for denying these chaplains' First Amendment rights?

The younger Cooper subsequently declined a request to offer an invocation at a subsequent police promotions ceremony.

In a letter to Carlsbad Mayor Keith Blackburn and City Council members, Toney called out Chadwick’s new restrictions on prayers as unconstitutional.

Citing the Supreme Court cases of Marsh v. Chambers and Town of Greece v. Galloway, she wrote that the fact that “a prayer is given in the name of Jesus, Allah, or Jehovah, or that it makes passing reference to religious doctrines, does not remove it” from the longstanding American tradition of public prayers by chaplains — although let’s be honest, Chadwick probably wouldn’t have complained if the prayer were given in the name of Allah or a mythological deity.

“Accusing [the Coopers] of harassment really was painful for them to receive, especially because they’ve been volunteering their time on top of full-time jobs for many years to serve,” Toney told the Times. “The city’s first responders and the police and fire departments have always expressed how much they appreciate the Coopers and how much they value that ministry.”

“Our goal here is really to equip the city with the correct understanding of the Constitution so that they do the right thing and allow the chaplains — as they always have — to pray in the name of Jesus,” she said.

What's the Deal with Fear?

The Times said it had contacted city officials for comment but did not report a response.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution plainly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” making it clear that the government cannot prohibit religious individuals from freely expressing and practicing their beliefs in public settings.

Clergy invited to offer invocations at public events must have the freedom to pray in keeping with the sincere beliefs and traditions of their respective faiths without heavy-handed government editing or restriction. That is a core First Amendment protection.

Like the Arab in the tale, we have allowed ourselves to be taken over by a group of people who are intent on throwing Jesus and those who believe in him out of the tent.

It’s no wonder crime, perversion and hate keep entering to fill the vacuum.

Regardless, the Coopers had the right to seek legal counsel to protect their First Amendment rights.

The camel is already inside the tent — but we refuse to let him kick us out.

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Rachel Emmanuel has served as the director of content on a Republican congressional campaign and writes content for a popular conservative book franchise.
Rachel M. Emmanuel has served as the Director of Content on a Republican Congressional campaign and writes for a popular Conservative book franchise.