Rabbi Adele Plotkin wants the mayor of Chino Valley, Arizona to stop praying — at town council meetings.
Plotkin, 66, of Congregation Beit Torah, contacted the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona about Mayor Chris Marley’s practice of reciting a prayer in the name of Jesus to open the meetings.
“It’s where you are that makes the difference,” Plotkin said. “You’re doing a public prayer in a public government meeting.”
The ACLU has in turn sent a document to the mayor asking the town council to do away with the prayer.
“Chino Valley’s invocation practices are not only unconstitutional, but also bad policy that promote divisiveness and engender discrimination toward religious minorities and non-believers,” it reads.
At a meeting on February 9, Plotkin stood up to protest against the invocation, which Marley began by saying was solely the religious expression of the speaker and anyone who disrupts twice will be thrown out.
“You have disrespected me. You have excluded me. You have violated me with your prayer,” Plotkin said when he finished.
In a video on a local publication’s website, the mayor repeatedly tells her to “please sit down.” Plotkin continues to yell as the mayor talks over her to ask a security officer to escort “this lady out.”
Marley told the Forward that Plotkin was thrown out of the meeting because “she kept disrupting and would not let me speak.”
Ordained at the Rabbinical Seminary International in New York, the Miami-born Plotkin has served as Beit Torah’s rabbi since 2009.
Alessandra Soler, the executive director at the Arizona ACLU, said the issue lies within the fact that the mayor isn’t being inclusive of other religions.
“The government should never act in a way where they put one religion on a pedestal,” Soler said, adding that the way Marley is acting is “the opposite of civil inclusion.”
She admitted Plotkin did disrupt the February 9 meeting, but that in her defense, she thought there was going to be a moment of silence, not an invocation.
The local press had recently alerted Plotkin about a Jewish resident who had come forward in December concerned about Marley’s practice of reciting a Christian invocation. The rabbi had never attended these town hall meetings, but had been reassured two years ago by previous council members that the invocation was inclusive. She said the mayor had earlier announced that a moment of silence would replace the invocation at the February 9 meeting.
“Only he wasn’t honest,” Plotkin said.
The ACLU tries to settle as much as possible out of court and it is waiting to hear what the mayor and town attorney say regarding its letter. Marley is confident the invocation doesn’t violate the constitution.
“I plan on continuing the invocation because we have that right,” he said.