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Lake Forest Approves Invocations At Meetings

Posted by Chris Emami on March 19, 2013

I just finished watching the Lake Forest City Council meeting and watched them approve invocations at their meetings. The thing that struck me was how civil the speakers were on both sides of the argument. Usually I see the meetings where the “In God We Trust” and “Invocation” discussions can get extremely heated. Kudos to Lake Forest residents for not making viewers uncomfortable. I will cut to the Councilmember comments noting that the public was split on the issue although I would say a majority off individuals were in support of invocations at meetings. Speakers were passionate but respectful of each other.

100px-LakeForestCitySeal
Dwight Robinson talked about how he did his homework on this issue before hand and came to the meeting prepared to listen to speakers from the community to help him make his final decision on this issue. He did note that he was supportive of an invocation at meetings at the previous City Council meeting.

Peter Herzog in my opinion was definitely the most negative of all the speakers both in the public and Councilmembers. He appeared to attack the public speakers that were from churches, claiming that they obviously support invocations at meetings. He also decided that the “In God We Trust” slogan behind the dais should be taken down based on the fact that faith was never a part of the discussion when the Council approved the placement of that slogan. I guess he is a bit grouchy still with his pending legal issues after being arrested recently. Just as a reminder of what the DA released recently:

LAKE FOREST CITY COUNCIL MEMBER TO BE ARRAIGNED FOR DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL

NEWPORT BEACH – A Lake Forest City Council member is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow for driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content of .18 percent, more than twice the legal limit. Peter Alan Herzog, 57, Lake Forest, is charged with one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol and one misdemeanor count of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more with a sentencing enhancement allegation for having a blood alcohol level of .15 percent. If convicted, Herzog faces a sentence ranging from probation up to six months in jail. He is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow, Thursday, March 14, 2013, at 8:30 a.m. in Department H-8, Harbor Justice Center, Newport Beach.

At approximately 8:15 p.m. on Nov. 17, 2012, Herzog is accused of making a left turn from Portola Parkway onto Lake Forest Drive and driving on the wrong side of the road. The defendant is accused of driving over the center median to get back on to the westbound lanes. Herzog is then accused of making a wide left turn from Lake Forest Drive on to Regency Lane and hitting the right side of the curb. The defendant is accused of crossing into the opposing lane of traffic swerving back and forth across lanes until he arrived at his home.

Motorists reported the driving to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who investigated this case, and arrested the defendant at his home. The defendant is accused of displaying objective signs of intoxication including bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred speech, strong odor of alcohol, and unsteady balance. At approximately 10:30 p.m., the defendant is accused of having a blood alcohol content of .18 percent.

Deputy District Attorney Joe Koller is prosecuting this case.

###

Adam Nick talked about his experiences with religion and government do not mix very well citing mass executions that took place at 6:00 sharp everyday. He mentioned that people do care because the council chamber is full. He claimed that he “thought it would be a cold day in hell before he agreed with Peter Herzog on anything.” He said that he researched the word invocation on a couple of online dictionaries and was somewhat unclear as to what he learned from this. He talked about his love for the people of Lake Forest and wanted to stress that he felt it was important to find common ground.

Scott Voigts explained that he was a man of faith and was very proud of his faith. He stated that he supports all residents that have a faith of any kind along with those that have no faith. He talked about the use of invocations in Congress among other places. He notes that he does not support putting any faith in front of any other kind of faith. He noted that only 8 other Cities in Orange County currently do not have an invocation at their meetings.

Kathryn McCullough who was the obvious swing vote and talked about the diversity of opinions from members of the audience. She talked about concerns she had with the item because she has remembered 2 things that happened to her personally. 1) The pledge of allegiance at another City Council meeting where 75% of the people refused to participate. 2) At another meeting they were honoring some of the officers that had died and during the National Anthem certain Councilmembers/Mayors at the event were chatting. She did state that she did not support the actions of those individuals but discussed the rights of those individuals. The overall point she is making is that by supporting invocations at the meetings it is not forcing people to pray. She does not support staff being involved in policing the issue. She passed around a peace coin to her  colleagues on the City Council. She stated that the initial motion made by Scott Voigts and Dwight Robinson would not garner her support the way it was stated.

Scott Voigts made a motion to support alternative #2 a choice that would allow invocations at council meetings that rotate and do not adhere to any particular faith. The motion was seconded by Adam Nick I believe. Watching the meeting was extremely difficult because the camera did not zoom in on the Councilmembers, I was literally watching the meeting from the top corner of the room.

The final vote as stated before was 4-1 (I think) with Herzog dissenting. I might be wrong on the vote margin because they went through the roll call vote very quickly and it was very hard to hear whether Herzog said aye or no.

7 Responses to “Lake Forest Approves Invocations At Meetings”

  1. OC Insider #29 (aka Greg Diamond) said

    That’s a cheap shot at the anti-invocation side, Chris. I don’t think that Herzog’s DUI has as much with his being opposed to invocations as it does with his being a privileged Republican officeholder who doesn’t expect to be subjected to the same laws as the rest of us, don’t you?

    As for the invocations themselves: what steps is Lake Forest taking to avoid letting those giving them commit blasphemy? For example, if they purport to intend to be serving God in asking for a blessing for a meeting at which they then vote for certain policies that contravene the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, might they be violating the Commandment against taking the Lord’s name in vain? Who gets to decide?

    As a religious person, I’m always concerned that people who favor invocations are highly unserious about such religious display. Whether what they are doing does actually “pleases God” seems to take a back seat to being able to claim to the electorate that God is pleased. (The ceremonies around the Golden Calf no doubt had the flavor of invocations.) To me, that is blasphemy. I suppose, though, that in a democracy the legitimacy of such religious beliefs are best put to a vote like this — right?

    Good for Herzog if questioned the right of the state (or city) to assert that it truly even desires to serve God. We’d all like to think so, wouldn’t we? That claiming to do so is so politically popular should lead us to question our own motives — with fervor and zeal.

  2. I did not poke at Herzog because if his position on invocations. His behavior and attitude towards members of the audience/colleagues on council was what drove me. Although I support invocations at meetings I have respect for those that want to disagree with me and have a rational conversation about it. Lashing out at fellow Councilmembers and public speakers is not a great way to gain support for yourself.

    • OC Insider #29 (aka Greg Diamond) said

      You may see your post as having said exactly that, Chris. Here’s what I saw:

      I guess he is a bit grouchy still with his pending legal issues after being arrested recently. Just as a reminder of what the DA released recently: [long and embarrassing story follows]

      He’s on your political team; that’s as far as I’m going to defend him. If you believe, though, that had he been a supporter of invocations who had gotten a bit testy at the meeting, you would have written the same thing and posted the same long excerpt from such an article, I will defer to your self of your own motivation. From my perspective, it looked like an eye-gouge at someone taking an unpopular position.

      Maintaining one’s grace while a majority bulls ahead with a proposition that gives short shrift to minority positions is a difficult thing to manage; South Orange County Republicans have far too little opportunity to learn how to do it well at City Council meetings. I hope that that changes over time.

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