Freethought Today · Vol. 26 No. 1 January/February 2009

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

News Notes

City Can’t Pray to Jesus

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 12 let stand the decision of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Christian references are unlawful in prayers at city council meetings in Fredericksburg. Va.

The council had banned city council member Hashmel Turner, a part-time minister, from ending prayers “in Jesus’ name.” He sued and last year, the 4th Circuit barred references to Jesus in city council prayers. An opinion was issued by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (subbing on the panel), in which she called the prayer “government speech” which therefore should not reference Jesus.

The high court’s action signals how it might rule in an appeal of the 11th U.S. Circuit court of Appeals’ October ruling upholding Jesus prayers. That appeals court panel OKed predominantly Christian prayer to open Cobb Co. commission meetings. Seven Cobb county residents filed a federal lawsuit in 2005, pointing out that 70% of meetings began with overtly Christian prayer.

The decision was written by Judge Bill Pryor, former Judge Roy Moore backer and religious-right Alabama attorney general.

Florida School Prayer Stopped

A federal judge ordered the Santa Rose County School District (Fla.) to stop promoting prayer and religion in the classroom and at school events.

U.S. District Court Judge Casey Rodgers ruled on Jan. 9 that employees may not promote prayer at school-sponsored events, including graduation; plan or finance religious baccalaureate services; promote religious beliefs in class or at school-sponsored events and activities, or hold school-sponsored events at churches.

The case was brought by the ACLU on behalf of two unnamed Pace High students. Violations included holding elementary graduations and middle school Christmas concerts at churches, and teachers and staff preaching about “Judgment Day with the Lord” and offering bible readings and biblical interpretations during student meetings.

Illinois Silence Law Overturned

A federal judge ruled on Jan. 21 that Illinois’ new law requiring a moment of silence in public schools “is a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion.”

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman ruled the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act unconstitutional.

The “teacher is required to instruct her pupils, especially in the lower grades, about prayer and its meaning as well as the limitations on their ‘reflection,’ ” Gettleman noted.

“The plain language of the statute, therefore, suggests and intent to force the introduction of the concept of prayer into the schools.”

Overheard

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers.
President Barack Obama
Inaugural Speech
Jan. 20, 2009
New York Times, Jan. 21, 2009

I just found it so stifling, my religion. . . .

And it was too much of what you shouldn’t be doing instead of what you could be doing. I get enraged when people start telling other people how to live their lives. It drives me mental. This Prop. 8 thing just drives me mental.
Brad Pitt
The Rolling Stones Interview
Dec. 25, 2008


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