Dumfries ‘Jesus Ordinance’ to be Reviewed
By URIAH KISER
DUMFRIES, Va. — The Dumfries Town Council sparred Tuesday night over putting Jesus Christ back into their meetings.
Councilman Jerry Foreman wants to amend a resolution passed in 2010 that bars anyone from stating Jesus Christ, or “in Jesus name we pray” during the invocations prior to each public council meeting. Foreman asked the council to review the language in the resolution, and asked both the town attorney and manager to review the legality of an ordinance that also states any “recognizably Christian” prayer is not allowed. The terms God, providence, heaven, and creator have always been permitted by the nearly two-year-old resolution.
“By amending this language the resolution stays non-denominational. It’s doesn’t specifically call one religious leader or one religion out,” said Foreman.
He added the 2010 resolution was passed after the U.S. Supreme Court addressed prayers said during public meetings.
But with some members of the town council — including Foreman and the mayor — up for reelection on May 1, some called Foreman’s request politically motivated.
“This is a very difficult thing. Nobody wants to go to hell over this. I mean, you deny Christ you go to hell if you’re a Christian. It’s a personal conflict as well as a governmental issue…I’m not sure it needs to be addressed tonight when we have an election coming up in two weeks,” said Councilwoman Dorothea Barr.
Councilwoman Michele Jurgensen asked the council to delay voting on the item until after the election.
“When I was elected I put my hand on the bible to uphold the constitution, I did not put my hand on the constitution to uphold the bible,” said Jurgensen.
Foreman countered, saying local religious leaders have asked to be involved in invocations delivered at town council meetings and said that work should begin now to review the resolution prior to the seating of the new town council on July 1.
In the end, the council voted unanimously to create a committee to review the ordinance and make needed changes as needed. Interim Mayor Nancy West, Foreman, Town Manager Daniel Taber, and Town Attorney Christine Sanders are all slated to serve on the committee.