JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local pastor is suing the city, saying his rights were violated when he was stopped from praying during a Jacksonville City Council meeting.
According to a complaint filed Tuesday, the Rev. Reginald Gundy said his constitutional rights were violated. He said that, when he was invited to do the invocation during the March 12 meeting, he was cut off by Council President Aaron Bowman during his prayer.
Gundy talked about people being stewards of the earth, local pollution, slavery, neglect since consolidation and violence, among other topics. Then he prayed about local government.
"People are being intimidated, threatened and bullied by the executive branch of our city government while cronyism and nepotism is being exercised," Gundy said in his prayer.
A council member attempted to stop him from talking, asking him to make it a spiritual prayer.
"However, in the name of Jesus, there is still hope for the hopeless, for some who have been down so long they can't even think on how to get up," Gundy said.
Then, suddenly, Gundy's microphone went silent. A minute later, the prayer was over and the meeting continued.
The following day, Council President Aaron Bowman posted on Twitter:
"I never envisioned a CM (council member) stooping so low to find a pastor that would agree to such a sacrilegious attack politicizing something as sacred as our invocation. It obviously was a last ditch effort to try and revive a failed term and campaign. Fortunately I control the microphone."
According to the lawsuit, cutting the microphone was a violation of Gundy's freedom of speech.
"I was sort of shocked, especially with some of the comments that he made because there is a need to understand our culture, and specifically when we pray in our churches, the black culture, we always think of freedom of oppression, freedom of religion, so politics was the furthest thing from my mind," Gundy said.
Gundy is suing for violation of freedom of speech and religion. Since the March 12 incident, there was a memo about rules for invocation prayer and proposed legislation, but the proposed legislation was dropped after local pastors spoke out about the incident.
The city has 21 days to respond to the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the city issued the following statement:
"At this time, since there is now pending litigation, we are not able to make a comment."