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California Official Orders Police and Fire Chaplains to Stop Praying 'In Jesus' Name'

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A California police chaplain and a fire chaplain are demanding that their local city council revoke a recent order that forbids them from concluding prayers at events "in Jesus' name."

First Liberty Institute, a non-profit legal group that aims to defend religious freedoms, sent a letter to the Carlsbad City Council requesting they overturn a recent order by the city manager to keep police chaplain J.C. Cooper and fire chaplain Denny Cooper from praying in the name of Jesus. 

J.C. Cooper is a local pastor who has served as a volunteer chaplain for the Carlsbad Police Department for six years. 

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His father, Denny, has served as the volunteer chaplain for the Fire Department for 18 years. 

According to First Liberty, the Coopers provide support, encouragement, and prayer to first responders as they face traumatic situations. 

In early March, J.C. was asked to give an invocation at the Carlsbad Police Department Awards Ceremony and he concluded the prayer "in Jesus' name." 

About a month later, J.C. was told by Police Chief Christie Calderwood that the City Council had decided that unless he removed "in Jesus' name" from future invocations, he would be subject to discipline. 

His father, Denny, was told by Fire Chief Mike Calderwood around the same time that the city manager told him Denny could no longer perform invocations unless he also removed the phrase, "In Jesus' Name."

J.C. sought counsel with his father and pastor and told the police chief that "removing the name of Jesus from his prayers would be a denial of his Savior Jesus Christ, a violation of his conscience, and a sin."

As a result, he declined to give the invocation at the upcoming Carlsbad Police Promotion Ceremony. 

Later, the police chaplain had a meeting with the chief of police and City Manager Scott Chadwick. 

According to First Liberty, Chadwick claimed that invoking the name of Jesus was considered "harassment, created a hostile work environment, and lifted one religion above another."

Chadwick then told J.C. that he could pray using any other name or term for God, but he could not say "Jesus." 

First Liberty alleges the city manager "misunderstands the law concerning public chaplains and invocations" and urges "the City Council to revisit the decision to censor the Chaplains' prayers."

"Because the Chaplains cannot in good conscience erase the name of Jesus from their prayers, this order deprives first responders of the solace and the spiritual strength that the Chaplains' volunteer ministry has provided for nearly two decades," the letter reads.

"Therefore, we urge the City Council to return its longstanding practice of inviting the Chaplains to pray freely in accordance with their sincere religious beliefs," it continued. 
First Liberty has also offered to assist the Carlsbad City Council in developing a constitutionally appropriate chaplain policy.

"The City Council should follow the Supreme Court's clear statements with respect to prayers such as the Chaplains' and allow them to pray according to their sincere religious beliefs," said Kayla Toney, Counsel for First Liberty.

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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.