The Freedom From Religion Foundation has informed the mayor and city council of Toledo, Ohio, that many of the prayers said before council meetings violate the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
A Toledo member of the Foundation, which has about 350 members in Ohio and 13,900 nationwide, was the initial complainant. An FFRF audio review of the prayers online from January through August 4, 2009, showed of the 11 prayers, over half ended with specific references to Jesus Christ. Four prayers ended with a variation like In your name" or "In your son's name."
In a letter to Mayor Carleton "Carty" Finkbeiner and City Council President Joe McNamara, Rebecca Kratz, FFRF Staff Attorney, urged discontinuation of the practice of praying before meetings, and especially the use of Christian prayers. "It is clear that these prayers, are rarely, if ever, non-denominational or non-sectarian."
The letter to the city includes transcripts of all the prayers.
"These Christian prayers inappropriately alienate non-Christians and non-believers in Toledo. Their efforts to participate in public meetings are adversely affected by these prayers, which turn non-believers and non-Christians into political outsiders of their own community and government. The constitutional rights of citizens to participate in government meetings such as City Council's meetings should not be predicated upon being subjected to Christian-based prayers," Kratz noted.
"The prayerful practice at Council meetings runs afoul of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution because it impermissibly advances Christianity," Kratz wrote.
The Foundation's letter continues: "To avoid the divisiveness these prayers cause within the community, the solution is simple: discontinue official, government prayers before legislative meetings.""