The long-debated subject over what constitutes separation of church and state returned to San Pablo City Council on Monday with the narrow passage of a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
The City Council voted 3-2 to pass a proclamation (draft of proclamation below) recognizing the National Day of Prayer, an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May.
Councilmember Rita Xavier voted against the proclamation presented to council, saying that it quotes the Bible, which she says is not inclusive of all residents. “Not every religion follows the Bible,” she said.
Councilmember Patricia Ponce cast the other “no” vote, saying that although she’s a Catholic who believes in God, she also believes in the separation of the state and religion.
Mayor Elizabeth Pabon-Alvarado, who proposed the proclamation, noted that both the proclamation, as well as President Biden’s statement regarding National Day of Prayer, include people of all faiths.
“If you look at the history of the National Day of Prayer, it wasn’t for Christians only,” she said. “But for people of all faiths.”
Councilmember Arturo Cruz said he supported the proclamation for supporting “all faiths and walks of life.”
In recent years, National Day of Prayer has become an annual opportunity for the San Pablo City Council to debate the merits of the tradition.
In 2019, former San Pablo councilmember Rich Kinney, a local pastor, made a motion to issue a city proclamation in support of the National Day of Prayer, but the motion lost by a vote of 2-3. Last year, a revised version of the proclamation that aimed to be more inclusive of all faiths and non-faiths passed council. However, that preceded a debate over whether a Christian flag should be allowed to be raised at City Hall if LGBT Pride or Pan-African flags can be flown there. It prompted a new city policy that declared the use of a flag and flagpoles for the purpose of government speech rather than as a free speech zone, and prohibited flags of a religious movement, political party or ones that endorse passage or defeat of a ballot measure.