FFRF successfully sues Pismo Beach over prayers, chaplain (April 28, 2014)

FFRF successfully sues Pismo Beach over prayers, chaplain

FFRF and a Pismo Beach member and citizen, Sari Dworkin, challenged the city council’s prayers and their appointment of a city chaplain. The lawsuit was filed on November 1, 2013, in the Superior Court of San Luis Obispo. Rather than fight the case in court, the city agreed to halt all prayers and to abolish the position of city chaplain. 

At each bi-monthly city council meeting the city chaplain, Dr. Paul Jones, a Pentecostal preacher, gave a sectarian Christian prayer. The complaint included a statistical breakdown of the prayers including the fact that only 3 of more than 120 prayers were not delivered by Christian clergy. Jones has delivered 112 of the 126 prayers scheduled by the council between Jan. 1, 2008, to Oct. 15, 2013. All but one of the 126 prayers was addressed to the Christian god. The Christian bible was cited more than 88 times. And in virtually every prayer Jones pressures citizens and the council to live a Christian lifestyle in accordance with the bible, to vote for “righteous” leaders, or to make decisions that honor Jones’ particular god.

The case was argued on California state law, so the Supreme Court’s decision in Greece v. Galloway (decided on the Monday after the final FFRF/Pismo Beach settlement was approved on Friday) has no impact on the case.

Freedom From Religion Foundation