Redwood City Suspends Invocations at City Council Meetings

Redwood City has temporarily suspended invocations at city council meetings.

The decision comes after Pastor Stephen Converse of Grace Bible Church opened Monday's council meeting with a prayer that included his views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

No one interrupted Converse, who also serves as the city's volunteer police chaplain. But Mayor Jeff Gee later said the comments do not reflect the council's views.

"While I appreciate everyone's viewpoints, I do have to say tonight's invocation was not something I appreciate," Gee said.

Redwood City and San Mateo County LGBTQ Commissioner Jason Galisatus said a government meeting should be a place where everyone feels welcome.

"Unfortunately it doesn't surprise me anymore when I hear things like that, but I would never expect to hear it in that context where I normally feel safe as an LGBT person," Galisatus said.

Converse in a phone interview with NBC Bay Area said he did not mean to offend anyone.

City leaders and the police department plan to meet with the Redwood City Clergy Network to review guidelines for the selection of police volunteers.

"The City of Redwood City has a long history of invocations going back decades without incident," Interim City Manager Aaron Aknin said in a statement. "The City of Redwood City is proud of our diversity and strong community. Invocations are not the forum to promote or discourage any particular religious or other belief. Invocators are invited as guests of the mayor and city council and community as a whole to share peaceful and respectful insights. Suspending the invocation process until further discussion with the mayor and council will ensure that invocations support our community's diversity and values."

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