A large crowd turned out Wednesday evening to protest whether Lodi City Council meetings should include prayers that mention Jesus by name.
Several hundred people gathered outside of Lodi City Hall, most of them in favor of prayer at meetings.
The issue surfaced recently when the city attorney suggested the council may be opening itself up to a lawsuit if members did not enforce its own policy about allowing only nondenominational prayers at meetings.
Some of the protesters chanted "Jesus! Jesus!"
"To have somebody come along and tell me that when I give a prayer or an invocation at a meeting, I should not be able to pray as I would, then that's wrong," said John Marshall, a Woodbridge resident.
A smaller group marched to show their opposition to such meeting prayers. Signs carried by the crowd said "Democracy not theocracy" and "Deities out of council meetings."
"I would say practice what you preach, because Jesus said to pray in private, not in public," Rocklin resident Eric Bennett said.
After the rally, some of those in the crowd packed into council chambers. Protesters stood up during a minister's invocation, and many added their own words at the end.
But gradually, as the meeting moved on, the crowd filtered outside. When it came time to speak about prayer, only about a half dozen spoke.
"It seems to me both possible and entirely appropriate for a prayer to be offered that is nonoffensive to all faith perspectives," said Alan Kimber, a Lodi minister.
Since the issue was not on the agenda, the council made no decision. A special meeting about prayer is set for Sept. 30 in a theater that can seat up to 900 people.
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