The Freedom From Religion Foundation has halted illegal prayer before Henrico County Board of Supervisor meetings in Henrico, Va.
Henrico County officials decided to drop the 25-year-old tradition on Tuesday after the group received a letter of complaint from FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott, as well as an objection from a local concerned citizen.
FFRF is a state-church watchdog with over 18,500 members nationwide, including more than 500 in Virginia.
An overtly Christian prayer, which included "in Christ's name," was delivered at the June 12 meeting.
"The Board compounds the violation when the prayers are to Jesus and/or most of the officiants are Christian or Christian clergy. Sectarian prayers make religious minorities and nonbelievers feel like political outsiders in their own community, and show an unconstitutional governmental preference for Christianity over other faiths and for religion over non-religion," wrote Elliott in a July 2 letter to Chairman Richard Glover.
Elliott pointed out that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has consistently struck down prayers to Jesus and this would likely be the case in Henrico. Elliott added that county officials are free to pray privately, as long as it's not on taxpayers' time and dime.
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Henrico County Attorney Joseph Rapisarda told the local NBC affiliate that "it was simply easier and would offend no citizens, and frankly, would be all inclusive simply to not have a prayer."
"We couldn't be happier that the board has chosen to honor our secular Constitution and its nonChristian and non-religious constituents," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "This was a wise decision and one that should set a precedent for other local governments faced with the choice of eliminating prayer."
VIRGINIA RESIDENTS SEND A THANK YOU!
As a Virginian and freethinker, please contact Chairman Glover today to thank the county supervisors for honoring the constitutional principle of state-church separation and protecting the rights of conscience of Henrico County citizens. (It is important he receive positive reactions.)
Richard Glover, Chairman
P.O. Box 90775
Henrico, VA 23273
Phone: (804) 501-4208
Fax: (804) 501-5361
Thank you for your help!