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To pray or not to pray


You don't sit after saying the Pledge of Allegiance at Angels Camp City Council meetings.

Instead, you fold your hands, close your eyes and bow your head.

"Shall we pray?" asks Angels Camp City Administrator Tim Shearer.

"Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for this evening. Thank you for this wonderful weather that we're having. God, we just pray that your blessings would be upon this city — that you watch over all of the people who live and work here.

"God, we pray for our students — that you would just bless them in school. Be with us this night. Help us in all the decisions to be made. In your name we pray, Amen."

Such is a typical prayer said by Shearer at the start of most of the council's biweekly meetings. The council didn't pray publicly until Shearer requested it when he was hired in July 1996.

"It was always intended government wouldn't interfere with religion, but God was always supposed to be part of government," said Shearer, who attends Mountain Christian Fellowship in Murphys. "I think (prayer is) part of what we are all about as Americans."

So does Valley Springs attorney Brian Chavez-Ochoa, who is now in Alabama supporting a judge who refused to obey a federal court order calling for him to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the Alabama Superior Court Building.

Chavez-Ochoa filed a federal lawsuit yesterday morning in Montgomery on behalf of five Alabama voters who say the judge shouldn't have been removed from his post without a public vote.

The lawyer said not only does he agree with city council prayers, but if anyone tried to challenge the prayers, he would represent that city for free. He is not charging his Alabama clients either.

"I think the Angels City Council should be complemented for what they're doing," Chavez-Ochoa said before heading South. "They're upholding a tradition. Our founding fathers founded this nation on Jesus Christ, and they weren't bashful about saying that."

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