Holtville Council Re-Discovers Faith, Offers Invocation Before Meetings

By Luke Phillips

It seems the Holtville City Council has rediscovered their faith.
At the behest of council member Richard Layton, Monday’s meeting started with an invocation for the first time in more than a year.
The invocation was performed by Trinity Baptist Church Pastor Richard Moore, who prayed for God to watch over the proceedings and cited the ‘Godly roots of our community.’
“We’d like to thank Pastor Moore for coming here tonight,” Layton said. “We were doing this for a while, having different Pastors and Ministers come in before the meetings, and I apologize, I don’t know where it got away from us. Pretty soon one meeting after another goes by and we weren’t doing it. I was feeling uncomfortable about it so I brought it up at the last meeting.”
The council is still seeking local clergy members to give the invocation at future meetings, something which has proved challenging in recent months.
“A lot of our pastors are sick and have problems right now and some of the churches are without pastors,” Moore told the council, “but it’s starting to get better. I’ll talk to some of the pastors and see if I can get them to come in.”
The council also voted to join dozens of other cities across California in displaying our National Motto ‘In God We Trust’ prominently in the council chambers.
The council made the decision after receiving a letter from Bakersfield City Council member Jacquie Sullivan. Sullivan is also a member of the newly-formed volunteer organization In God We Trust American Inc., whose mission is to “encourage each city in our nation to join in prominently and permanently displaying the national motto in every City Hall throughout our great state and across America.”
Layton was also the one who brought the letter to the attention of the council.
“I’ve been brought up, and I truly believe, that the church has been teaching us to pray for our government,” Layton said.
Holtville may take the proposal even farther. Several council members, along with City Manager Laura Fischer and two residents in the audience, offered to help pay for a bigger monument displaying the motto.
“I’ll pay for it myself if I have to,” Layton said.
Fischer reminded the council that, as stipulated in the resolution, the monument must be small enough to actually fit inside the city council chambers.
The Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit organization which specializes in defending religious liberty, has offered to represent any city being sued over displaying the motto ‘In God We Trust’.
The First Amendment guarantees the separation of Church and State, but numerous judges have ruled that displaying the national motto and performing an invocation before city council meetings is not unconstitutional,  as long as they don’t promote one religion over another.