The Pueblo City Council, Colo., is indefinitely postponing sectarian prayers to open meetings and going to a moment of silence. Thank them for their commitment to the secular Constitution and freedom of conscience.
Freedom From Religion Foundation Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, a former Pueblo resident, wrote to the Pueblo City Council on Sept. 14 to point out the unconstitutional nature of the prayers given at their meetings. Seidel listened to the prayers led at the 14 most recent meetings, 13 of which were sectarian Christian. One memorable prayer invoked the Christian “Lord” 22 times in 73 seconds — once every 3.3 seconds. In three cases, the scheduled clergy failed to appear and city employees gave prayers instead.
Last night, the council agreed to stop sectarian invocations and substitute a moment of silence. Council President Christopher Kaufman said, “We’re going to be postponing indefinitely the invocation from our sectarian churches. We’ve been monitored by some group out of — I’m not even sure where — and they’re putting the kibosh on us via indirect threat. So until we decide what we’re going to do with that we’re going to be postponing it.”
FFRF’s letter pointed out, “Local government should not be in the business of performing religious rituals, or exhorting all citizens, regardless of beliefs, to participate in a Christian prayer, or even asking citizens to show deference or obeisance to this ritual.”
Prior to the final invocation, Mr. Kaufman almost asked everyone to rise, but corrected himself, “If you’d all — I guess if you choose to, you may rise. If you want to sit, that’s fine as well.
Please take a moment to thank the city council members and urge them to make their indefinite postponement permanent. (They will undoubtedly receive complaints from the religious right, which we need to balance.)
200 S. Main
Pueblo, CO 81003
PHONE OR EMAIL
Mr. Christopher Kaufman
City Council President
Phone: (719) 545-1700
FAX: (719) 553-2698
City Council Representatives
Ms. Ami Nawrocki
Ms. Eva Montoya
Ms. Sandy Daff
Mr. Steve Nawrocki
Mr. Chris Nicoll
(One sentence is sufficient, your own words are best. But you may wish to copy this paragraph in your correspondence:)
Thank you for honoring the Constitution by keeping religious ritual out of public meetings.
Calling upon council members and citizens to rise and pray (even silently) is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular city government. Council members 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. Thank you. (Sign name)
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
The Pueblo Chieftain: "Pueblo City Council choosing silence over opening prayer"
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