- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

COOLIDGE, Ariz. (AP) - The Coolidge City Council will not pursue a proposal that would allow prayers before their meetings, specifically only Christian prayers.

Members unanimously voted Monday night to back away from the proposal. The council members then unanimously voted to allow any religious group within the city to offer a prayer before a council meeting, according to the Arizona Republic (https://goo.gl/gygGMr ).

“We want to move Coolidge forward,” said Mayor Jon Thompson. “Now we have a legally defensible position and everyone will have a seat at the table.”

The city received widespread criticism last week after it voted to amend a resolution so that it no longer allows prayers from a variety of faiths before council meetings. The amendment was proposed by Councilman Rob Hudelson, a Baptist pastor, who voted to abandon the resolution Monday.

“History will look back on us and say, ‘There is a city council who stood for Christ and Christ alone,’” he said before casting his vote. “For that, we should never be ashamed.”

Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons warned the city was opening itself up to lawsuits by only allowing Christian prayer.

Coolidge Pastor Byron Sanders of Fairhaven Baptist Church asked for the prayer measure that was later narrowed by council members. He attended the Monday night vote and said it was a relief the council decided to return the resolution to its original intent.

“Christianity has always been inclusive,” he said. “Christians settled in America to give everybody an opportunity.”

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision last year in Town of Greece v. Galloway saying communities could not discriminate against minority faiths in allowing prayer before meetings.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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