Melissa Ross’s article from politicsflorida.com

Here is a great article about the issue from politicsflorida.com:

EMAIL INSIGHTS: SECTARIAN PRAYER ISSUE FLARES UP AGAIN AT JAX CITY COUNCIL
April 29, 2015
By Melissa Ross

He hasn’t even been sworn in yet, but incoming Jacksonville City
Council President Greg Anderson is already experiencing the headaches
of leadership.

Susan Aertker has emailed Anderson to ask him to (once again) change
the rules about Council meetings and sectarian vs. inclusive prayers
during the invocation.

Under outgoing City Council President Clay Yarborough, the invocation
period has always been a Christian prayer. This practice has long
been controversial in Jacksonville, which has Bible Belt roots but in
the 21st century, has become increasingly diverse. And the matter
flares up time and again -depending on who leads the Council.

Writes Aertker, “Based on Yarborough’s words in interviews and based
on the fact that the two people that have given the invocation at the
city council meetings since Yarborough became council president said
“in Jesus’ name, we pray”, one can conclude that Yarborough will only
let people (that agree to say those words) give the invocation. In my
view Yarborough is proselytizing his own particular faith by requiring
that “in Jesus’ name we pray” be said at council meetings. I believe
that violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment and the
ruling in Greece v. Galloway.”

Under former Council President Jack Webb, (and with pressure from the
ACLU) the policy regarding the invocation during City Council meetings
was changed, but it wasn’t binding to future council presidents.

Then as Aertker points out, “After Webb left office, Bill Bishop
became Council President and appointed Yarborough as chaplain. Of
course, Yarborough said “in Jesus’ name we pray” while he was
chaplain. After Bishop, Bill Gulliford became Council President and
he did have some diversity during the invocation period. Gulliford
even had a flute player one time which perhaps represented the
non-religious invocation. Yarborough became Council President after
Gulliford. As Yarborough has said, he only allows people who say “in
Jesus’ name we pray” to give the invocation while he has been Council
President.”

In an interview he gave to the Florida Times-Union Yarborough said he
believed in Christian prayer in public buildings, telling the T-U’s
Mark Woods, “The scripture teaches that unless one prays in the name
of Jesus Christ, and since he is our only way to the Father, that that
is how one should pray. And that is what I believe.”

Aertker closes with a link to au.org/UniteUs petition asking for a
change in invocation rules.

General information and links—invocation at Jacksonville City Council meetings

Here is the memo from the city attorney detailing his opinion about the invocation period:

http://www.coj.net/city-council/docs/misc/ogc-invocationopinion-2014-09-20.aspx

Here is the petition with over 500 signatures that the NE Florida AU chapter spearheaded:

https://www.change.org/p/sign-our-petition-in-the-name-of-unity

In an interview a couple of years ago, then CM Yarborough was asked about prayers during city council meetings. Here is a link to the interview:
http://jacksonville.com/opinion/blog/400564/mark-woods/2010-04-17/councilman-takes-turn-answering-questions

CM Yarborough mentioned the phrase “in Jesus’ name we pray” in the interview. It appears that Council President Yarborough only invited people to give the invocation that are willing to say that phrase​. That seems to me a clear violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. I hear that Yarborough did a lot of good for our city. He was a watch dog against corporations trying to rip us off or so I heard. BUT his desire to establish a theocracy is wrong, isn’t it?

During Council President Yarborough’s reign (July 2014 to June 2015) , only Doyle Carter and Kimberly Daniels gave the invocation during the city council meetings. They both said “in Jesus’ name we pray” during the invocation. Which according to the Greece v. Galloway case is OK as long as other people (from every group in town) are invited to give the invocation

Invocations during prior years

You can find the rule 1.106 which talks about invocations at this link:

http://www.coj.net/city-council/docs/councilrules/rules-of-council.aspx

As of May of 2016, Rule 1.106 reads as follows:
RULE 1.106 CHAPLAIN
The President may appoint one Council Member to be Chaplain of the Council, who shall
arrange to open each meeting of the Council with a prayer/invocation. The President or Chaplain may invite or designate others to provide appropriate ceremonies.

When Jack Webb was Council President, the ACLU was set to sue if he didn’t rotate the invocation speakers. Jack Webb complied. Here is the invocation policy that he established (but I was told that future council presidents are not bound by):

http://www.coj.net/city-council/docs/invocationpolicy.aspx

As you can see, the memo is dated in 2010.

BUT when Bill Bishop was Council President, he did very little rotating. See list below. And I think Bill Bishop is one of the good guys.

When Gulliford was council president, he rotated the speakers. Not perfect but better than Bishop. When Yarborough was council president, it appeared that he demanded that “in Jesus’ name we pray” be said during the invocation. Only Doyle Carter and Kimberly Daniels gave the invocation during Yarborough’s reign.

BILL BISHOP—PRESIDENT—2012-2013
Here is the list of who gave the invocations from August 2012 to June 25, 2013:
Aug 15, 2012 CM Yarborough
Aug 28, 2012 Bishop Felipe Estevez
Sept 11, 2012 CM Yarborough
Sept 25, 2012 CM Don Redman
Sept 27, 2012 CM Don Redman
Oct 9, 2012 CM Yarborough
Oct 23, 2012 CM Don Redman
Nov 13, 2013 CM Yarborough
Nov 27, 2012 Rev Michael D. Moore
Dec 11, 2012 CM Yarborough
Jan 8, 2013 CM Yarborough
Jan 22, 2013 CM Yarborough
Feb 13, 2013 CM Yarborough
Feb 26, 2013 CM Yarborough
March 12, 2013 CM Yarborough
March 26, 2013 CM Yarborough
April 9, 2013 CM Yarborough
April 23, 2013 CM Yarborough
May 14, 2013–INVOCATION – Bishop George Davis, Faith Christian Center
May 28, 2013–INVOCATION – Reverend Robert Barton, Westside Baptist Church
June 11, 2013–INVOCATION – Pastor Gene Hodges, First Baptist Church West Jacksonville
June 25, 2013–INVOCATION – Council Member Yarborough