LONGVIEW — The Rev. Larry Pedigo of Highlands Baptist Church delivered the invocation at Thursday's City Council meeting and ended the prayer, "In Jesus' name, Amen."
"Amen," came the hearty response in the council chambers, The Daily News reported Friday.
Longview Mayor Don Jensen told the audience that until the council takes formal action to remove the invocation from the meeting agendas, the prayer stays.
During the public comment period, some people said they felt they have a legal right to a Christian invocation.
Jensen said the council will discuss its invocation policy next week at a workshop.
"We want to do it right now, and we want to have a policy so we try not to get afoul of the law," he said.
A citizen's complaint about the Christian prayer prompted Jensen to tell the Kelso-Longview Ministerial Association last month it was not acceptable to invoke Christ's name at the council invocation because it could expose the city to a lawsuit. The ministerial association told the council its members would no longer provide invocations. Councilman Mike Wallin invited Pastor Pedigo.
Invocations have been a regular part of Longview's council agenda since the late 1950s. Longview resident Dan Smith has repeatedly written to council members to argue that non-Christians shouldn't have to endure a prayer at a government meeting, and that he would certainly win if he took the city to court.
City Attorney James McNamara said the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that invocations can be given at City Council meetings, but different courts have reached different conclusions about whether the prayer may invoke Jesus Christ's name.
After the meeting, a dismayed Smith said, "They won."
He couldn't believe none of the Christians who expressed support to him for his stance didn't address the council, he said.
"I wanted to present the discussion. I did. I'm not a leader. I don't want to be a leader," Smith said. "I'm disappointed in Longview."