(JTA) — A rabbi was removed from a city council meeting in Arizona after protesting a Christian invocation read by the mayor.
Two police officers escorted Rabbi Adele Plotkin out of the Feb. 9 Chino Valley Town Council meeting at the request of Mayor Chris Marley, who ended his prayer “in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” the Daily Courier reported.
Marley is a minister and six of the seven council members in Chino Valley, in northern Arizona, have identified themselves as Christians, while one is identified a non-Christian. Under council regulations, a council member may give the invocation but is not required. The council member identified as non-Christian has declined to give an invocation, according to the newspaper.
At the meeting last week, the council voted to make no changes to the invocation tradition.
Marley reportedly had announced at the Jan. 26 council meeting that there would be no invocations at meetings until the council had discussed the current system following a complaint from a different rabbi. Plotkin, of the Beit Torah congregation, told the Daily Courier that she attended the meeting based on that announcement.
Explaining her protest, Plotkin told the newspaper, “Sitting there is giving the impression of acquiescence, so what was I to do?”
The mayor argued at the meeting that ending the invocations would harm the council members’ right to freely worship as enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
The rabbi said she has been in contact with the American Civil Liberties Union about the invocations.
Jake Bennett, the Anti-Defamation League’s Arizona regional director, said in a statement: “We believe it is inappropriate and insensitive for a mayor or town council member elected to represent all of the people in his community to offer a sectarian invocation at a public town council meeting. When a civic leader prays in Jesus’ name in such a setting, the message inevitably conveyed to non-Christians is one of exclusion.”
Bennett added that Plotkin acted “inappropriately” in disrupting the council meeting and the mayor was “within his rights” to have her removed.
“But there is a larger point to be made here,” the statement concluded. “This incident graphically illustrates how divisive sectarian prayer practices before local legislative bodies can be in our pluralistic society, and why they are ill-advised.”
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