The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging Knox County Commissioners (Tenn.) to drop a resolution that would create written guidelines for "pre-meeting prayer."
Knox County officials will meet next Monday, July 23 at 1:45 p.m. to make a final decision about the resolution. The county set the prayer issue aside at last month's meeting because it was a last-minute addition. Talk of the prayer resolution arose after two local citizens sued Hamilton County, Tenn., over its illegal prayer.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Chairman Mike Hammond is looking forward "to the people of Knox County telling us whether they want to pray before meetings."
FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote to Hammond and the board on July 3, calling for the commission to "discontinue official government prayers during government meetings." They added that the prayers are "nearly always pervasively Christian." On June 25, commissioner Larry Smith prefaced his prayer by saying he would pray from "the Christian perspective." Several other prayers included references to "Jesus," "Our Heavenly Father," and "in the name of your son."
"The constitutional rights of citizens to participate in government meetings, including the commission’s meetings, should not be predicated upon being subjected to Christian-based, or even non-denominational prayer. By hosting prayers, which inevitably show preference for Christianity, the commission is illegally and inappropriately imposing its religious beliefs on the citizens of Knox County who attend these meetings for public business," wrote FFRF.
One of Knox County's very own, commissioner Amy Broyles, is leery of the sectarian prayer: "there are over a dozen unique and separate religions practiced in Knox County and it can be difficult to represent everyone," she told commissioners during the April 23, 2012, meeting.
Please phone and/or email Hammond now. If you live in Knox County be sure to so identify yourself, but any freethinking individual can help influence the debate. It is your constitutional right to have a secular local government. Please tell Hammond and the rest of the commission that these prayers are inappropriate and unnecessary and exclude Tennesseans who identify as nonreligious (numbering 400,000 adults in the state).
Chairman Mike Hammond
City County Building
Knoxville, TN 37902
Click here to contact other commissioners, including Amy Broyles who you may wish to thank.
Thank you for your help!
A sentence or two in your words is sufficient, but feel free to copy and paste the statement below:
To avoid the constitutional concerns and the divisiveness government prayers cause within the community, the solution is simple: discontinue them.
Calling upon commissioners and citizens to rise and pray (even silently) is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular county government. Commissioners are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way. They do not need to worship on taxpayers' time or dime. Nonbelievers and religious minorities should not be made to feel like political outsiders in their own community.
Even the New Testament Jesus warns against public prayer: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:5-6). See more quotes about prayer at end.
PROVOCATIVE QUOTES ABOUT PRAYER
It is best to read the weather forecast before praying for rain. —Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson
Nothing fails like prayer. —Anne Nicol Gaylor (FFRF motto)
Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. —Thomas Paine, Age of Reason
When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one. —Benjamin Franklin, Works, Vol. VII, p. 506
Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy. —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary