Freethought Today · Vol. 27 No. 8 October 2010

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Public boards seem hooked on prayer

FFRF continues to receive complaints from members around the country about city and county boards injecting religion into public meetings with prayers and godly trappings.

An example is the Searcy City Council in Arkansas, which in August approved displaying “In God We Trust” in large gold letters in the council chambers. The Foundation sent a letter of complaint in late August to the city about opening meetings with sectarian prayers. City officials didn’t like what they saw as an intrusion by FFRF. “It kind of gets under your skin,” Alderman Steve Sterling said.

Alderman Dale Brewer’s reaction, according to the Searcy Daily Citizen, was, “I think this is a situation where we say two words: ‘So what?’ and move on.”

Mayor Belinda LaForce told the newspaper that the prayers will continue and that “We are within our rights to do so. We do have freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor told The Associated Press she was troubled that the mayor “doesn’t seem to understand that government doesn’t have freedom of religion. Government is not a person. We have freedom of religion for individuals.”

The Foundation sent a follow-up letter Sept. 28 reaffirming its legal position.

Here is a list of cities that FFRF has sent letters to about government prayer from June 22 to Sept. 29:

Madison City Council, Fla.; Madison County Commission, Fla.; Hartville City Council, Ohio; Aiken, S.C.; Spartanburg County, S.C.; Augusta County, Ga.; Jacksonville City Council, Fla.; Sandy City Council, Utah; Rowlett City Council, Texas; Omaha City Council, Neb.; Blount County Commission, Tenn.; Bentonville City Council, Ark.; Troy City Council, Mich.; Dearborn City Council, Mich.; Greenwood Township, Pa.; Sevier County, Tenn.

FFRF also sent a letter to the Hartford [Conn.] Common Council, which announced its intention to host Muslim prayers at its September meetings. The announcement caused a firestorm in the area Christian community.

“All night long, the e-mails have been coming. I’ve been called everything except a child of God,” Petrel Maylor, council executive assistant, told FOX News.

“The rancor, bigotry, even threats attending the Common Council’s decision to schedule an imam to give an invocation is a lesson in the divisiveness of injecting religion into government,” wrote Foundation Co-President Dan Barker.

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