FFRF seeks end to divisive prayer at Ala. government meetings

The Freedom From Religion Foundation contacted the Alabama Public Service Commission and its president urging the PSC to drop its divisive and intrusive practice of opening its official meetings with prayers.

At the July 17 meeting, PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh introduced John Jordan of East Memorial Baptist Church as an "active member of Promise Keepers," and called him a "role model" for being "not scared to share his faith." Cavanaugh encouraged fellow commissioners to sign up for Jordan's weekly emails so they could "walk closer with our Creator," and presented Jordan with a certificate. Cavanaugh explained, "Most of the time the person saying the prayer is from a church or a friend of one of our commissioners."

Jordan began his prayer by asking for a show of hands of how many people believed in prayer, how many believed God answers prayer, and how many "need prayer." During his prayer, Jordan opined: "we've taken you out of our schools, we've taken you out of our prayers, we have murdered your children, we've said it's okay to have same-sex marriage, God: We have sinned."

View prayer: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/25/alabama-prayer-gay-marriage_n_3651756.html

As Hunter Stuart of Huffington Post asked: "Is a public meeting over utility company rates really the right place for a prayer asking God's forgiveness for abortion and same-sex marriage? We doubt it."

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel concurred with that assessment, writing Cavanaugh:

"Government prayers exclude a significant portion of Americans from the democratic process, are of dubious legality, and are a repudiation of our secular history."

"Calling upon Commission members and citizens to pray is coercive and beyond the authority of any government. The government should not perform religious rituals or exhort citizens, regardless of their beliefs, to participate in, or show deference to, a religious ritual."

Seidel ended his secular homily with a reference to Matthew 6:5-6, in which Jesus condemns those who pray in public as "hypocrites," and recommends praying in secret.

FFRF is a state/church watchdog with 19,000 members, including many in Alabama and a state chapter, the Alabama Freethought Association.

Read Seidel's letter here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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