CHARLOTTE, N.C. -
Volunteer chaplains in North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department will no longer be allowed to invoke the name of Jesus in prayers at public events held on government property.
Major John Diggs, who oversees the chaplain program, told WSOC that the policy is a "matter of respecting that people may have different faiths and that it is not aimed at any one religion or denomination."
Pastor Terry Sartain of Horizon Christian Fellowship told FOX News Radio he was scheduled to give an invocation at a promotion ceremony. Before the event, he received a telephone call from his superior major.
"I was told chaplains can no longer invoke the name of Jesus on government property," Sartain said. "[He said] if I could refrain from that during the invocation he would appreciate that."
Sartain said he was surprised by the telephone call. The pastor said he has prayed "consistently" in the name of Jesus at past police department events without any issues.
"I'm very sad about it," he continued. "I'm a pastor and Jesus is the only thing I have to offer to bless people -- his life and his person."
"It brings about a very real concern about where we are heading as a nation," he said. "I serve a God who loves people unconditionally, who died for their sins on the cross, who wants to reconcile himself to them and love them where they are at -- and now I'm told I can't bless people as a result of that."
The police department said he could still pray -- just not to Jesus. Instead the police department wants chaplains to deliver a "secular prayer."
"Even when I wasn't a Christian -- in my past -- I didn't even know what a secular prayer was," Sartain said. "Why even pray if it's to the one who's in the room? That could be anybody."
Sartain has since asked the police department to withdraw his name from consideration for future public prayers.
At least some people in the Charlotte area support the decision to remove the "Jesus-centric" prayers.
"It's past time when they should've made a policy," American Civil Liberties Union member Jim Gronquist told WSOC. "It's improper to mix up religion with the function of state agents, and as long as they're state agents, they should not be able to do that."
Sartain said it is apparent that "Christians for the most part are targeted in these days that we exist in."