Pastor Troy Peterson, who has been attending Pasco County Commission meetings regularly of late, asked the county board — at its meeting last week — to let him be in charge of the board’s invocations.
“Once again, I am here to address praying in Jesus’ name for the invocation,” Peterson said.
“I’ve been praying about this for quite some time,” said the Port Richey pastor, who also cited some scriptural verses at the podium.
“I don’t see any prayer or invocation with Jesus’ name in it. That’s why I’m here.
“What I’m asking is if the board would approve me, and a group of pastors that I would approve, if I could not make it, I would appoint somebody to come in that I know is going to pray according to the word of God,” Peterson said.
A couple of other speakers spoke in favor of Peterson’s request and another speaker spoke against it, noting that Pasco is a growing county, with Christian, Jewish, Muslim and people of other faiths.
County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder weighed in on Peterson’s request, by first providing some background on the issue.
“So, in September of 2003, the former county attorney was asked the question about invocations,” Steinsnyder said.
“That’s what led to what the clerk reads (at board meetings).
“The federal law, with regard to praying in county commission meetings, has not changed and in fact , one of your fellow counties on the East Coast has taken the case up. In 2019, the 11th Circuit affirmed all of the case law that basically says, you can’t have secular prayer.
“The Brevard County Commission was doing something very similar to what the pastor suggests, where they would have pastors, preachers, rabbis on call to come in and pray before the county commission.
“It was found to violate federal law.
“So, my advice to the board would be to continue the practice that you’ve adopted,” Steinsnyder said.
Since the speakers’ remarks came during the public comment portion of the meeting, the issue was not on the board’s advertised agenda.
Board members did not comment, and based on the county attorney’s recommendation, it appears that the board will not pursue the request.
Published November 03, 2021
I’m just wondering how this violates federal law when our own U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senate both have a chaplain and open each session with a prayer.
Also wasn’t something similar to this addressed in the Supreme Court case decision Town of Greece V. Galloway? Sounds like it maybe time to lawyer up and protect the first amendment. Keep going Pastor Peterson! May the name of Jesus be lifted high!