Church vs. state again at Bishop City Council

City Attorney Peter Tracy said restriction on public prayer “is the law of California – like it or not, and I don’t particularly like it. The danger,” he said, “is if someone feels we are infringing on their religion they can go to state court and sue.”

Ministers and citizens piled into the Bishop City Council chambers Monday night for public comment. They wanted to say more about the City’s new guidelines on prayers before Council meetings. City Attorney Peter Tracy first gave them all a civics lesson on freedom of religion.

Pam Mitchell of Bishop said she comes from a place that prefers” praying in private”, a view supported in the Book of Matthew.

Tracy went back to England before the foundation of America. He told of the “great amount of religious discrimination” and the eventual birth of the Church of England. He said a main motivation of the colonials was the exercise of freedom of religion which eventually led to the First Amendment of the Constitution. Tracy said it means government can not “establish or support a given religion. When the rubber meets the road, it’s difficult,” he said.

In Bishop, where the Christian religion dominates, some ministers and citizens said they were offended that the City made rules to eliminate specific mentions of Jesus Christ in the public prayers. Tracy tried to show the protestors that the law and court cases support this kind of limitation in city government because of the separation of church and state.

The City Attorney also pointed to potential attorneys fees if the City were sued by an outside party. Those attorneys, he said, could collect as much as $300,000 or more. Tracy said, “This is the risk the City has with taxpayers’ dollars.” When Rajan Zed of Reno asked to deliver a Hindu prayer at the City Council last month, Tracy said denial would have been risky so the Council adopted guidelines.

Mayor Dave Stottlemyre said the Council would put this issue on a future agenda for further discussion. Then the public spoke. Wesley Bloom said he would like to see the guidelines reversed. He said, “It grieves me very much that our decisions are based on the fear of lawsuits. This compromises our freedoms.”

Father Gracey said church and state should not rule one another. Gayla Wolf called the lack of religion in public “a growing cancer.” Pam Mitchell said she is a Christian and appreciates people voicing their feelings, but supports praying in private not publicly. Said Mitchell, “I never felt cut off and denied regarding prayers in public meetings. Everyone should be free to worship as they want.”

More on all of this at a future Bishop City Council meeting.


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60 Responses to Church vs. state again at Bishop City Council

  1. The chief Neocon September 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm #


    This ought to whip the already foaming-at-the-mouth neocons into even MORE foaming-at-the-mouth frenzy.

    “Those who would undermine America [secularists] … know they have to first chip away at the faith of Americans, at their very spiritual foundations.
    Secularists, in the world of the dittoheads, are subversive anti-faith infidels who “undermine” America.”

    Conservative guru and high priest, Rush Limbaugh

    • Benett Kessler September 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

      I appreciate your comments but would be more interested in what you think of the church vs. state than Limbaugh.
      Thanks again for participating,
      Benett Kessler

      • Disturbing trend September 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

        Sirius XM Radio has a base of 18.5 million subscribers as of 2009. American Top 40 attracts over 20 million listeners per week. Rush Limbaugh’s show has been the number one commercial talk show since at least 1991 when record keeping began.
        Judging from some of the bizarre far-right comments on this blog, the hate-monger is clearly (and disturbingly) influential.
        And of course, nobody ever listens to Rush Limbaugh, it’s mere coincidence some of the posters on this blog share the same “I hate liberals (aka Democrats)” mantra and express themselves accordingly.

        • Tourbillon September 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

          So far the only one who has penned “I hate liberals” is you. So far the vast majority of the bile-filled political tripe on this blog has been reliably from the Left. We get it – progressives all hate – truly hate – anything conservative and seem to relish that animosity. This delusional moral preening apparently makes you feel good about yourself. But really, that’s why haters hate, right?

        • SierraFan September 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

          I’m with Steve! The only negative political posts seem to be from the left via a “foaming at the mouth rant”. Maybe some of the lefties are here just to have a place to release and if that’s all you’re looking to do then find another place to be your negative self. If you’re looking to have spirited debates and / or just good and clean ole fashioned opinion then do it. BTW if you’re wondering about me and my political opinion… it’s to love all from the center and not a right wing nut!

          • Right-wing ideology September 12, 2012 at 6:25 am #

            “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”

            -Conservative guru Rush Limbaugh

    • Steve K September 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

      Are you obsessed with Limbaugh? You’re the one that seems to be ‘foaming-at-the-mouth’. Please turn off your radio and get some fresh air.

    • Trouble September 12, 2012 at 6:22 am #

      I’m going to have to get out my dictionary to figure out what it is that your babaling about now chief.

    • SierraFan September 12, 2012 at 8:10 am #

      Chief Neocon,

      Do you secretly have this love affair with listening to Limbaugh? You seem to know all of his rants pretty well! I say this because I haven’t heard any of the folks commenting here mention his name or his ideas at all….. but you however appear to know much of the Limbaughism?Just an observation.

  2. K. Lee September 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Keep prayers and church matters out of government, plain and simple. If you want to go to Church, go. If you want to say prayers, pray privately but don’t put prayers in a public venue as some people are offended with private beliefs forced upon them in public.

    • Tourbillon September 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

      K. Lee, please send a memo to those dastardly religious extremists at the Supreme Court (whose walls bear the Ten Commandments) and the U.S. Treasury (which has the unmitigated effrontery to print “In God We Trust” on our currency). Please also reeducate Congress, which opens daily with a prayer, to your enlightened modern views. Oh yes, do not forget to let the Council for American-Islamic Relations know as well to shut up about their religion in their political efforts. Now THAT would be an excellent example of bravely speaking truth to power.

      Or you can keep pedantically lecturing your neighbors who pose as much of a threat to your freedom as my little good-natured dog. It’s safe and you still get to feel good about yourself.

      • Benett Kessler September 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

        Hey, Tourbillon, sounds like you got up on the wrong side of the bed, so to speak. K.Lee’s comment was just an opinion.
        It didn’t sound like “pedantically lecturing”. Your comment kind of does. Just my view.

      • Ken Warner September 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

        I find myself oddly agreeing with Tourbillion. There is a lot of — pandering I guess is a good word — a lot of pandering to the self labeled religious people. It’s hard to know where fake religion that is worn on the sleeve ends and were true belief (in something I don’t understand) begins.

        When I look at the religious of the world, I see a lot of posturing and play acting that is mostly for the benefit of those around them. The people I’ve met that are more connected to greater forces seem much more quiet and less proselytizing about their beliefs.

        I’ve heard the question asked: is god so insecure that he/she/it needs constant praise?

        • Big AL September 12, 2012 at 9:51 am #

          Ken, a lot of what you mention, namely that last comment is all about what mans says about God and Who He is.

          God doesn’t puff Himself up, He says, I am who I am. You’re right though, someone who is truly in a relationship with God, does not boast about it and make so much about it, unless the need arises, but then, it is humble still.

          Religion is the biggest killer of any faith.

          You are so right about the shirt sleeve Christians or Muslims or what ever faith one might have. But what is more dangerous, are the hard core zealot types.

          We see this in the recent attacks yesterday on American consulates, and so much of the acts of violence we face today. Even people who feel so strongly against pro life issues, that they choose to kill people over it. Does that make sense, no it doesn’t!

          • Big AL September 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

            I meant to say pro choice issues.

    • Doglover September 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

      WOW! Somebody should of told our Founding Fathers that… We would have no Constitution if they believed that way. If you chip away our rights to speak publicly about our belief in God whats next? I am offended by cus words but I don’t yell and slander the person that speaks that way. I remove myself out of hearing. Or pay no never mind. Why can’t we have the same rights????

      • Benett Kessler September 12, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

        What occurs at public meetings of governmental bodies is different. Peter Tracy gave a good run-down of the history of our freedoms
        and the fact that the courts are upholding the First Amendment.
        Benett Kessler

        • Durrell Coleman September 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

          Most other cities have already adopted similar policies, because the fact is you will get sued, and you will lose.

      • John Barton September 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm #


        You can walk up and down Main Street any time of day waiving a “Praise Allah” or “Jesus Loves You” sign. In public people have a choice to ignore you, talk to you or run away, therefore your rights are intact in public. Hearing one ramble on about their personal beliefs and wasting the time of others in attendance at a government meeting is like putting up with second hand smoke in a closed room– disrespectful of others.

  3. sierragrl September 11, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    I guess I don’t get it. Why do we have a prayer before council meetings? Wouldn’t that solve the problem by not having one??

    • amused September 11, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      I completely agree. I feel that everyone who wants to include prayer in their city council meeting should enjoy doing so privately under the umbrella of whatever religion they practice, be it Christian or Hindu.

    • Left/Right viewpoints September 12, 2012 at 6:36 am #

      The liberal view

      • Not everyone in every classroom has the same religious beliefs. Forcing every child to say the same prayer, or any prayer at all, amounts to coercion. Our Founding Fathers were careful to protect the religious freedom of minorities by making religion a private matter, separate from government.

      The conservative view

      • The Founding Fathers were not atheists. To forbid as innocent and commendable an act as praying in school for fear of offending a small number of people goes beyond separation of church and state, into the realm of suppressing religion.

      • Doglover September 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

        I’m sorry but you are not checking the facts….

      • Bemused September 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

        Correct. It’s just that the conservative view is bullsh*t…

  4. Big AL September 11, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    As I have stated before on this subject, I feel a call to prayer is not offensive if it is done privately. As has been the case in some venues, to call for prayer if you so choose to pray for matters at hand, have a time to pray silently.

    For those who do not choose to pray, take the time to wish good thoughts on the business at hand, or just take the time to reflect on items to be worked through.

    The problems seems to be for some folks, and rightfully so in their minds … that a corporate call to prayer is called for, and that leaves them feeling offended, because they do not believe. This is a valid feeling for them, that most do not seem to understand.

    With many feeling strongly about their faith, they feel, that a corporate call to prayer is in order and all should accept it. No … not all have to accept it, even God gives us all the free will not to accept Him and anything to do with religion.

    People have to understand this, as well as those who appose prayer, need to understand the strong belief in prayer, if both can see the importance to the other as well as to themselves, them there could be a common ground of understanding which works for both.

    That is why I still see a call for prayer, a time for self prayer in one’s heart, I feel it is needed, but that is my point of view. I think .. to deny a call for prayer is really completely denies those who believe for the sake of someone who does not believe, not being offended.

    You can say the same, the other way around, but, at least with a call for personal prayer time, it does not really offend the non believer, for then it is personal time in prayer that is not shared corporate.

    A call for a prayer over the proceedings by an assigned person to deliver a prayer will always offend someone, because not everyone there will feel aligned with the faith of the person delivering the prayer, or will not be a believer of any faith.

    So with that said, I feel a prayer delivered by someone .. over the proceedings is not acceptable by all, the council is right to not afford the opportunity for it. A call for a moment or few moments of personal prayer is in order, does not leave room to offend anyone, and offers people who are so inclined to do so …. to pray for the matters at hand.

    In not allowing some sort of time for prayer, you are denying some who want to pray, and not offending those who don’t. Prayer, as I feel is always a good thing, if anything, it helps put people in a good frame of mind .. a positive influence on things.

    • Julie September 12, 2012 at 8:12 pm #


  5. JJ September 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    Lets not forget where Mr. Tracy was with regard to the Mammoth Lakes Lawsuit (remember, it was not his purview). Bishop should seriously think like Mammoth Lakes and get a new City Attorney.

    • Big AL September 12, 2012 at 9:29 am #

      So what does that have to do with this issue JJ?

      • JeanGenie September 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

        JJ’s saying Tracy isn’t a very good lawyer, and I agree. Although, espicially around here, is there such a thing?

        • Big AL September 16, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

          I hear ya Jean .. I totally get it .. but what Tracy said in his description of it .. is true .. it’s all about law suits, in this case he explained the history of it. That is all it is .. but why does JJ have to throw that in the mix .. just because he feels Tracy is not a good lawyer, that has nothing to do with this case, but then I guess I totally get that too, what was I thinking?

  6. MJA September 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    Prayers should be left for when there is absolutely nothing else to do.
    But then there is always something else to do, isn’t there?
    There is for me,


  7. Trouble September 12, 2012 at 5:21 am #

    I think it is sad that our City Council has chosen to make this our major local issue. There are limits to free speech and the separation of church and state is the one limit clearly spelled out in our constitution.

  8. Limbaughites credo September 12, 2012 at 5:26 am #

    The far-right (Limbaughites) believes they are the only “true Americans” and that Christianity is the only “true Religion” for America.
    Therein lies a huge problem.

  9. PhilipA September 12, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    It is probably better not to have any negative forces at work within a gathering if we are hoping for a postive result or experience from the public expression of faith. Going to a church or any other place of worship including down by the river or on the mountaintop, being in a group of fellow worshippers ,devotees if you will, empowers the prayer and links and congeals the group into one voice. A question or a prayer asked and answered for a multitude is a miracle witnessed by all , not unlike the loaves and the fishes. I like to see ,feel and hear my miracles without any interference, static or negative vibes and not at a meeting regarding street repair or zoning regulations. Pray often if you will but lets remember to focus missionary zeal on helping others and looking within ourselves to see who we are and what we can do to make this gift of life better for each and everyone of us.

  10. Terry September 12, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    The simplest solution is what out founding fathers envisioned— separation of church and state. Keep religion at your home, private service or place of worship. This should keep everyone happy and promote respect and tolerance for others’ beliefs.

  11. Eastern Sierra local September 12, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    Any recognition of religion by a government entity is wrong. The public can gripe all they want about the lack of Christian prayers at these meetings or Hindu, or whatever; but as an atheist I find religion (even a prayer) in a public, government meeting offensive and unconstitutional. We are all protected constitutionally, of the trammeling of our rights by other groups. Being subjected to a “prayer” is an infringement of my rights.
    With the new rules regarding these prayers maybe the City of Bishop needs to get the High Priest of the Satanic Church to come on down too

    • Conservative guru speaks September 12, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      “…the meaning of the establishment clause of the First Amendment should not be stretched beyond its intended dimensions by precluding voluntary prayer in our public schools”

      – Conservative high-priest, Rush Limbaugh

    • Doglover September 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      I’ll bet you still use money!!! In God we trust!

      • John Barton September 12, 2012 at 4:55 pm #


        FYI- “In God We Trust” didn’t show up until the 1860s and not on all currency until 1909..

        The pledge of allegiance also didn’t have a reference to God until 1954.

        Religion has no business in govertment for people in power to use against its subjects.

        • sierragrl September 13, 2012 at 8:31 am #

          cool fact john, I didn’t know that. I bet Washington would not be a happy camper to see the words ‘in god we trust’ next to his head on the quarter after how hard he and others worked to insure a separation of church and state….’out of many, one’- the original statement on the seal of the US (in latin) is a much better and well thought out statement…the guys knew what they were doing!

        • Big AL September 13, 2012 at 9:27 am #

          @ John Barton … Doggiestyle– … just shows your character .. nice dig.

    • Trouble September 12, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

      Eastern Sierra Local- thou it sounds like I am more religious than you, I agree with you 100%. I don’t need my goverment telling me when,where and even to whom to pray. Our city council needs to work on fixing our sidewalks.

  12. sierragrl September 12, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    instead of a prayer, how about an affirmation regarding the roles and duties of the council members before each meeting….it’s always a good idea to remind each other why you’re there and what it is you’re suppose to be accomplishing. Something like ‘to evaluate all sides before making thoughtful decisions with the good of the community in mind…to set aside personal opinions and beliefs…to be fair and unbiased…etc etc. like a city council mantra side by the council before each meeting…wouldn’t that be much more meaningful?

    • Trouble September 12, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

      How about they spend our money on new sidewalks, instead of giving it to the lawyers. P.S. chance in hell they when this one.

      • JeanGenie September 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

        Yeah Trouble, now they made that stupid looking orange sidewalk on the side of city hall it stands out like a sore thumb, who’s idea was that?

        • Big AL September 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

          Well Bridgeport is in the process of doing the same thing on school street.

    • Julie September 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

      Love your idea sierragrl! Hope the city council members and any future council members are reading. In fact, wouldn’t it be nice if Congress made such an affirmation before the start of each day?

  13. Big AL September 12, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    Don’t worry be happy

    In every life we have some trouble,
    when you worry you make it double
    don’t worry, be happy

    Don’t worry be happy

    Don’t worry, it will soon pass whatever it is,
    Don’t worry, be happy,

    Don’t worry be happy
    be happy now

  14. Trouble September 12, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Sorry about my spelling. Long day.

  15. JaneE September 13, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    People who adamantly defy the explicit teaching of Jesus Christ are not Christians. See Matthew 6, 5-6. If these self-proclaimed Christians actually did what Jesus taught them to do, this would not be an issue.

  16. XYZ Christians September 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    What kind of “Christians” are you talking about, JaneE?

    Baptist Christians?
    Roman Catholic Christians?
    Eastern Orthodox Christians?
    Pentecostal Christians?
    Evangelical Christians?
    All are self-proclaimed “Christians” each saying they are the one, true, Church.

    • Big AL September 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

      Christ in one’s heart, or ones faith in Jesus Christ is what it means to be a Christian, a disciple or follower of Christ.

      You don’t have to call yourself one of the above listed church members to be a Christian, though you might align your ideals with one of them.

      It is what you feel in your heart, and Jane E is right .. Christ’s teaching was about love, That is what He is all about.

      Man makes things different, and lays the head trips on each other. If you look at any part in the new testament, Jesus’ teaching is not the religion that man has put on themselves and others.

      Yes XYZ, there are a lot of self proclaimed Christians around .. as Ken put it .. they wear their religion .. not their faith, on their shirt sleeves. It’s real easy to bash something and negate Christianity or any other faith when you see people acting in ways that do not become it.

      If you want to know what true Christianity is .. look at the life of Mother Theresa, She lived Christs’ ministry in her life.

      People like her don’t seem to come into view when people talk about the other side of it all .. the religiosity of it .. the junk people do, that seems to be what is seen, and for some, that is all they want to see, is the junk, just to prove their point.

      • an unexamined life September 14, 2012 at 5:08 am #

        “…If you want to know what true Christianity is .. look at the life of Mother Theresa.”

        I’m SO glad you didn’t ask to look at the life of Mitt Romney, Big Al.
        I don’t think anyone wants to get into the examination of Mormonism at the moment.
        Or should we …?
        I understand a lot of straight-ticket Republicans are jumping ship.

  17. Tom September 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    Is Bishop in Alabama?

  18. Trouble September 14, 2012 at 5:57 am #

    See Mammoth, your not the only one with screwed up polititians.

  19. Jeremiah's Alter Ego September 14, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    We are allowed to talk Good or Bad about any religion and allowed to practice or forget any religion here in America. If you may get offended by somebody talking bad about your religion its a sad day for you. if your offended because Jesus Christ was left out of the conversation its a sad day for you. Government or state shouldn’t favor any one religion over the other and shouldn’t be obligated to mention. Not all of us recognize the same Creator.
    I feel all should be respected in the same light but we all know that isn’t the case.
    If you get upset because your religion isn’t respected or admired the way you do, its a sad day for you.
    Oh and this of course is my opinion as well, People like to ask what would Jesus do?
    Jesus wouldn’t vote for this current republican platform because they don’t look out for the sick, the poor, or practice forgiveness to the criminals.
    Religion use to be something you had to practice, and people would be put to death if they disagreed, or may have been a witch, or whatever reason they tend to come up with. I mean look currently at the Westminster Baptist church and the hate they teach to their kids. (just thinking about them made me throw up a lil in my mouth).
    So I say don’t let it be a sad day for you when somebody is practicing their constitutional rights of this Awesome country!
    So go ahead and pass judgement on whoever may to help you feel better about yourself but what about the water, the Sun and all the life forms that make our existence possible? Its a sad day for all of us when those a put in the back burner.

    • contemplating "god" September 14, 2012 at 9:27 am #

      Jeremiah speaks of a “Creator” god, as is the notion most of us were raised with. Having been born with an inquisitive mind, though I am open to such an idea, there is simply not enough evidence (for me) to support what I was told as a little kid to be “the truth.”
      I was also raised to think of God as a man who hides from us in the clouds somewhere, who throws people into everlasting fire (because he “loves” them) and that woman came from the rib of a man.
      Could it be that there is some masculine monkey-doings going on here? There are societies that view their god in feminine form, which makes sense to me in the creator sense since I know of no man who has given birth to another human being.

  20. Ken Warner September 14, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    We are literally stardust —

  21. Inyoite September 14, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    This is the city that couldn’t make a decision about chickens without putting it out to a costly vote. Do we really expect they can make a decision about God or The Constitution?

    • Trouble September 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      Most of our City Council members are just their for their free medical insurance.


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