Grand Junction City Invocation Log

countingWe’re keeping count.

The City of Grand Junction has long openly violated the law requiring separation of church and state at City Council meetings, and continues to do so openly.

In May, 2009, WCAF formally asked Grand Junction City Council to stop hosting Christian prayers in the name of “Jesus Christ” at public meetings, a longstanding practice that had never been challenged. We pointed out that these government-sponsored prayers give the appearance that the City prefers Christianity over other religions, makes secular citizens feel like outsiders and is a clear violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

That was our first formal request that the City stop endorsing religion at public hearings. WCAF members met with City Attorney Dan Shaver, who listened to what we had to say and agreed that the City’s invocations had long violated the U.S. Constitution. He informed Council members that they needed to change the practice.  But Council refused to end the violations, saying they didn’t want to “censor” what a person can say at the invocation. Instead, Council crafted a broad invocation policy, the city’s first, that opened the invocation opportunity up to every group and individual, regardless of religion or affiliation, instead of restricting it to religious groups only, as they had done in the past. The policy also says that if a person is invited to give the invocation declines the City’s invitation or fails to show up to say it, Council will hold a moment of silence instead. The current policy only requests that speakers “not exploit the invocation opportunity to proselytize.”

But proselytizing does regularly continue regularly at City Council meetings, without Council taking any action to enforce the policy.

Time and again, speakers saying invocations at Council meetings routinely exploit the opportunity to proselytize by praying in the name of “Jesus Christ,” or variations of the name. No other deity is ever named. The City has refused to notify any of the speakers who have exploited the policy and used it to proselytize that they have in fact violated city policy. There has also been no consequence for speakers who use the invocation to proselytize at city council meetings. In May 2013, fully four years after our first request, WCAF sent a second request to the City pointing out that the current policy has not only been ineffective, but has been completely unenforced.

Fast-forward to the end of 2015, fully six years after our first request to Council, and the only possible conclusion is that the Grand Junction City Council members knowingly negotiated in bad faith with WCAF and ignored the advice of their own attorney that the City needs to end this repeated constitutional violation, and that they continue to willfully violate the law.

Following is a log of the number of times since 2009 that the Grand Junction City Council has violated the U.S. constitution by hosting sectarian prayers at taxpayer-funded public meetings, for many years now after being informed by the City Attorney that uttering the name “Jesus Christ” during City Council invocations violates U.S. law.

NOTE: The words “LEGAL VIOLATION” after an entry indicates the invocation included the name of “Jesus Christ” at that public meeting: 

2009

June 15, 2009 – Pastor Joe Gross, Redlands Community Church-LEGAL VIOLATION
July 13, 2009 – Bishop Doug Rock, Church of JC of Latter Day Saints, 5th Ward-LEGAL VIOLATION
Mon., August 31, 2009 – Pastor Michael Ferguson, Providence Reform Evangelical Church – LEGAL VIOLATION

[The rest of 2009 is unavailable]

2010

Jan. 20 – Paul Dibble, Ret. Pastor Colo. Christian University – LEGAL VIOLATION
Feb. 1 – Moment of Silence
Feb. 17 – Moment of Silence
March 1, 2010- Pastor Art Blankenship, Cyn W. Worship Center – LEGAL VIOLATION
March 15, 2010 – Pastor Richard Bishop, Clifton Bible Church – (audio only) – LEGAL VIOLATION
April 5 – Moment of Silence

Grand Junction’s "Ten Commandments" tablet was donated to the City in 1959 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a fraternal group that only admits people who believe in God.

Grand Junction’s “Ten Commandments” tablet was donated to the City in 1959 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a group that only admits people who believe in God. The tablet remains displayed prominently on the front lawn of City Hall.

April 19 – – Pastor Joe Gross, Redlands Community Church – LEGAL VIOLATION
May 17, 2010 – Pastor Richard Bishop, Clifton Bible Church – LEGAL VIOLATION
June 14, 2010 – Pastor Tim Roseberry, Fellowship Church – LEGAL VIOLATION
August 16, 2010 – Pastor Harry Butler, Handy Chapel (Harry Butler was a former city council member) – LEGAL VIOLATION
August 30, 2010 – Pastor JP Mertens, Canyon View Vineyard Church
October 4, 2010 – Pastor Randy David, Pear Park Baptist Church – LEGAL VIOLATION
Oct. 18, 2010 – Pastor Jim Hale, Spirit of Life Christian Fellowship- LEGAL VIOLATION
Nov. 1, 2010 – Pastor Ron Lee, New Vision Assembly of God Church – LEGAL VIOLATION
Nov. 17, 2010 – Pastor Hans Weston, Jubilee Family Church – LEGAL VIOLATION
November 29, 2010 – Pastor Joch Boling, Lighthouse Foursquare Church –LEGAL VIOLATION
Dec. 13, 2010 – Vaughn Park, Heritage Church

Number of times Grand Junction City Council broke the law by hosting sectarian prayers at public hearings in 2010: 12

2011

January 5, 2011 – Joe Alaimo, Vice President, Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers
January 19 – Moment of Silence
January 31 – Moment of Silence
Feb. 14 – Moment of Silence
Feb. 28 – Pastor John Mok-Lamme, Sojourners Church – no show – Moment of Silence
March 14, 2011 – Pastor Roger Cooper, Fruita Faith Baptist Church – did not appear, council hosted a moment of silence
April 4 – “Reflection” by John Jenkins, Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers
April 18 – Moment of Silence
May 2 – – Bishop Bud Hawley, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – Fruita 4th Ward – LEGAL VIOLATION
May 16 – – Pastor Ken Vanderhorst, New Life Church
June 1 – Moment of Silence
June 13- Moment of Silence
July 6 – Moment of Silence
July 20 – Moment of Silence
August 3 – Reverend Blaine Scott, First United Methodist Church
August 15 – Moment of Silence
September 7 – “Reflection” – Eric Niederkruger, Western Colorado Atheists and Free Thinkers
September 21 – Pastor Ray Shirley, Monument Baptist Church
October 5 – Moment of Silence
October 17 – Steve Hagerman, Turkish World Outreach – LEGAL VIOLATION
Nov. 2, 2011 – David Eisner, Ohr Shalom Jewish Community Center
November 14 – Moment of Silence
December 7 – Moment of Silence
December 19 – Moment of Silence

Number of times Grand Junction City Council broke the law by hosting sectarian prayers at public hearings in 2011: 2

2012

January 4 – Leo Truscott, Deacon, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
January 16 – – Pastor Jerry Gonzales, Living Stone Christian Center – LEGAL VIOLATION
February 1- Jared Mahoney, Seminary Principal, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – LEGAL VIOLATION
February 13 – Minister Doug Clayton, Church of Christ of Grand Junction – LEGAL VIOLATION
March 7 – Pastor Randy Mills, Seventh-Day Adventist Church /Girl Scout Troop- audio started late
March 21 – Moment of Silence
April 4- Pastor Dan Wilkie, First Congregational Church
April 18 – Chaplain Mary Ellen Ireland, St. Mary’s Pastoral Care
May 2- Moment of Silence
May 16 – Earle Mullen, Unaffiliated

June 20 – Pastor Bob Labig, Orchard Mesa Christian Church – LEGAL VIOLATION
July 18 – Visitation Minister Hunt Zumwalt, Church of Christ of Grand Junction – LEGAL VIOLATION
August 1 – Pastor Rex Townsley, Victory Life Church – LEGAL VIOLATION
August 15 – Reverend Lawrence Henson, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Grand Valley
September 5 – Pastor Kyle VanArsdol, Molina Baptist Church
September 19 – Moment of Silence
October 3 – Moment of Silence
October 17 – Moment of Silence
November 7 – Moment of Silence
November 19 – Pastor Randy David, Pear Park Baptist Church – LEGAL VIOLATION
December 5 – Pastor Mike MacFarlane, New Day Ministries – LEGAL VIOLATION

Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras presides over violations of the Constitution at City Council meetings in 2013, as speakers continue to pray in the name of "Jesus Christ" at taxpayer-funded, public meetings

Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras presides over violations of the Constitution at City Council meetings in 2013, as speakers continue to pray in the name of “Jesus Christ” at taxpayer-funded, public meetings

December 19 – Moment of Silence

Number of times Grand Junction City Council broke the law by hosting sectarian prayers at public hearings in 2012: 8

2013

January 16 – – Reverend Patty, Two Rivers Center for Spiritual Living
February 6 – Moment of Silence
February 20 – Reverend Dennis Finnan, A House for His Name – prayed to generic lord/god. (Note people attending City Council invocations are still invited to “sit, stand or leave the room,” if they are offended by a religious invocation.
March 6 – Moment of Silence
March 16 – Candidate Forum, LEGAL VIOLATION
March 20 – Moment of Silence
April 3 – Moment of Silence
April 17 – Moment of Silence
May 1 – Pastor Hans Weston, Jubilee Family Church – LEGAL VIOLATION (“…in Jesus’ name”)
[New Council sworn in May 6]
May 22 – Pastor Mike Rossmann, Valley Bible Church –LEGAL VIOLATION “Lord Jesus Christ,” “In Jesus’ name”, etc. (mentioned “Jesus” three times)
June 5 –  Pastor Mike Ferguson, Providence Reformed Evangelical Church – LEGAL VIOLATION
June 19 – Moment of Silence
July 3 – – Retired Reverend Eldon Coffey, “In Jesus’ name” –  LEGAL VIOLATION
July 10 – Special Meeting, conducted without prayer
July 17 – Pastor Bob Cook, Victory Life Church, “in Jesus’ name” – LEGAL VIOLATION
July 23 – Special Meeting, conducted without prayer
July 29 – Candidate Forum, conducted without prayer
August 7 – Moment of Silence
August 21 – Pastor Kyle VanArsdol, Molina Baptist Church LEGAL VIOLATION
September 4, 2013 – Moment of Silence
September 18, 2013 – Moment of Silence
October 2 – Don Brantley, Healing Rooms of  Grand Junction “in Jesus name” LEGAL VIOLATION
October 16 – Pastor Jeff Harmeling, Monument Presbyterian Church
November 6 – Moment of Silence
November 18 – Joint meeting with County over Persigo Wastewater Treatment plant – no prayers here
November 20 – Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers “Reflection” (note that the city did not call ours an “invocation”
December 4 – Dave Edwards, Ohr Shalom Jewish Community Center
December 18 – Moment of Silence

Number of times Grand Junction City Council broke the law by hosting sectarian prayers at

public hearings in 2013: 8

2014

February 19 – Minister Joe Gonzales, Living Stone Christian Center, “We pray in the name of your son Jesus, amen.” LEGAL VIOLATION

March 19 – Rev. Bob Carey, New Haven Pentecostal Holiness Church, “In Christ’s name we pray, amen.” LEGAL VIOLATION

April 16 – Pastor Ron Lee, New Vision Assembly of God, “In the name of Jesus Christ…In Jesus name, amen.” LEGAL VIOLATION

June 4 – Rev. Robert Babcox, Orchard Mesa Baptist Church, “In the precious name of your son Jesus Christ, amen.” LEGAL VIOLATION

Violations of the law mandating separation of church and state continued under Grand Junction Mayor Phyllis Norris, throughout 2014 and 2015

Violations of the law mandating separation of church and state continued under Grand Junction Mayor Phyllis Norris, throughout 2014 and 2015

August 6 – Pastor Joe Gross of “Redlands Community College” (Mayor Phyllis Norris probably meant “Redlands Community Church”) – “In the name of our lord Jesus Christ, our savior.” LEGAL VIOLATION

September 3 – Brother Jerry Graves, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, “In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” LEGAL VIOLATION

2014 Summary – In 2014, the Grand Junction City Council broke the law 6 times by hosting sectarian prayers. They had 9 moments of silence.

2015

February 4 – Pastor Dan Russell, Appleton Christian Church: “Please bow your heads with me…In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” LEGAL VIOLATION

February 18 – Father Shane Carr, Christ Church Anglican – “Through Jesus Christ our lord, amen.” LEGAL VIOLATION

July 15 – Pastor Paul Watson, Downtown Vineyard Church, “In Jesus’ name we pray….” LEGAL VIOLATION

City council members bow their heads during Christian prayers at a public meeting at City Hall, September 2, 2015

“We say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” — City council members bow their heads during Christian prayers at a public meeting at City Hall, September 2, 2015

September 2 – Bishop Dale Bowen, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 12th Ward – “We say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” LEGAL VIOLATION

2015 Summary – In 2015, the Grand Junction City Council violated the U.S. constitution 4 times by hosting sectarian prayers at their public meetings. They had 16 moments of silence.