BY RAYMOND MENDOZA
Walnut – Following a May 5 Supreme Court decision ruling that religious invocations were acceptable at city council and other public board meetings, Mayor Tony Cartagena met with several religious leaders in the area on July 1 to discuss an open invitation to all religions wishing to deliver a prayer to the residents of Walnut.
The original lawsuit was brought on by two women in Greece, New York – one Jewish, and one atheist – claiming that the city’s invocations featured prayers to Jesus Christ and were specifically aimed at Christianity.
After the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of allowing religious invocations at city meetings, Cartagena decided to hold a meeting to ensure that even with the large population of Catholic and Christian residents, the Walnut City Council invocation is open to all religions as long as they do not degrade the message of any other religion and do not force their beliefs on unwilling attendees. Cartagena reached out to all local churches and religious groups to discuss a schedule for reading invocations during upcoming council meetings.
According to Cartagena, the meeting had representatives from the First Baptist Church of Walnut, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the City Blessing Church of Walnut, the Gospel Life Community Church, and the Walnut United Methodist Church.
Cartagena said the meeting was successful and allowed for each responding representative to learn about the rules regarding the deliverance of invocations and that the City Council meetings would soon play host to various religious leaders who would like to offer their prayers to the community.
Furthermore, Cartagena said he was happy with the Supreme Court’s decision because Walnut has a long standing tradition of hosting prayers at the City Council meetings.
“By having invocations at the Walnut City Council sessions, religious leaders could play important roles in seeking help from our almighty God for the legislative body to formulate decisions that would enhance Walnut’s quality of life, among other things,” said Cartagena. The mayor also called the meetings “essential” to the local government.
Some religious leaders, like High Priest Missionary, Felix Maico, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the inclusion of many religions during the invocation will help strengthen the community because it would create connections between the many religions in the city. Maico also noted that freedom of religion is the right of all American citizens and that every religion should have the chance to believe in whatever they want to believe.
Pastor Paul Tan, of City Blessing Church of Walnut, said the decision to allow invocations from all religions will be a boon for the city and its residents, because it will give some individuals the chance to see the friendliness behind other religions.
“It will be beneficial because we need to know one another,” Tan said. “Sometimes we don’t love one another because we don’t know one another. Maybe this will change that.”