California city censors police and fire chaplains, ordering them not to pray in Jesus' name: Report

A California city has reportedly forbidden its volunteer police and fire chaplains to invoke the name of Jesus while praying with members of public agencies.

Denny Cooper and his son J.C. Cooper have been ministering to residents in the City of Carlsbad, California, for years. Denny is a gym teacher and baseball coach who has been a volunteer chaplain with the city’s fire department for 18 years. J.C. is an associate pastor at the Mission Church who has been volunteering as a chaplain for the Carlsbad Police Department for six years.

Praying without mentioning the name of Jesus ‘would be a denial of his Savior Jesus Christ, a violation of his conscience, and a sin.’

However, Carlsbad city manager Scott Chadwick has apparently taken umbrage with the overtly Christian nature of their chaplaincy work. According to a letter from First Liberty Institute, a legal nonprofit dedicated to protecting religious liberties, Chadwick recently told J.C. and Police Chief Christie Calderwood that referencing the name of Jesus during a public-oriented prayer “was considered harassment, created a hostile work environment, and lifted one religion above another.”

A member of the Carlsbad City Council even complained after J.C. closed his prayer during the Carlsbad Police Department Awards Ceremony in the name of Jesus, the FLI letter claimed, though whether Chadwick was the complainant is unclear.

Police Chief Calderwood has since ordered J.C. not to mention Jesus’ name during his prayers with members of the police force. “[J.C.] could use any other name he wanted as long as it was not ‘Jesus,'” she said, according to the letter.

Fire Chief Mike Calderwood gave similar instructions to chaplain Denny Cooper. The fire chief reportedly claimed Chadwick issued the anti-Jesus directive.

The Cooper men discussed the order, and with the help of his pastor, J.C. determined that praying without mentioning the name of Jesus “would be a denial of his Savior Jesus Christ, a violation of his conscience, and a sin,” the letter said. He then declined an invitation to give the invocation for another recent police department event.

With the letter, FLI hopes to remind Carlsbad officials that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that public chaplains may invoke the name of Jesus. And in fact, this Jesus-free policy — which Chadwick allegedly implemented unilaterally, “without consideration or a vote by the City Council” — may even violate the Coopers’ First Amendment rights to free speech.

In the letter, FLI urged the city council to reconsider the decision “to censor the Chaplains’ prayers” and instead “return its longstanding practice of inviting the Chaplains to pray freely in accordance with their sincere religious beliefs.” FLI even offered to assist the city in crafting a prayer policy that accords with the Constitution so as not to deprive its officers and firefighters of “the solace and the spiritual strength” of “the Chaplains’ volunteer ministry.”

Carlsbad officials did not respond to a request for comment from the Washington Times or the Christian Post.

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