FFRF attorneys contest Day of Prayer events

Every year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation handles multiple complaints about local government officials inserting themselves into National Day of Prayer events, not as private citizens but in their roles as public employees or appointees.

FFRF, a national state-church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., so far this year has sent letters of complaint to Bulloch County (Statesboro, Ga.); the cities of Mandeville, La.; Guin and Summerdale, Ala.; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Polk County Public Schools, Bartow, Fla. (event at Lake Wales Senior High); and the cities of Odessa, Texas, and Barron, Wis.

Complaints about Nampa, Idaho, Jeffersonville, Ind., and other locales were pending at press time.

Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere on April 29 about the rally on the front steps of City Hall, which was prominently displayed on the city’s website under the section titled “Mayor’s Message.”

An April 16 letter from Grover went to Odessa Mayor David Turner and City Manager Richard Morition about the May 1 Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon held annually in conjunction with the NDP. A city press release said tickets for could be bought through the city secretary and listed her phone number at City Hall.

FFRF contacted the previous mayor in 2012 about spending several thousand dollars of tax money on the luncheon and using city staff to coordinate it. Guin promoted its event on the city’s website and Facebook page.

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote April 30 to Bulloch County Attorney Jeff Atkins, and included a photo of a sign on the courthouse lawn. “It appears that the county is hosting the event since there is no indication of a private sponsor.”

FFRF also filed an open records request for county policies on advertising and putting up displays on government property.

This year’s National Day of Prayer theme was “One Voice, United in Prayer.” The featured bible verse was Romans 15:6: “So that with one mind and one voice, you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Secularists and even some Christians have long noted that the day “has been taken over by evangelicals,” as one man put it. The NDP Task Force, based in Colorado Springs, is top-heavy with social conservatives, many of whom are homophobic and anti-choice.

Freedom From Religion Foundation