FFRF and Island County, Wash., leaders agree church and state best kept separate (June 10, 2013)

The County Board of Commissioners in Island County, Wash., chose not to start scheduling illegal prayer at its meetings after the Freedom From Religion Foundation corresponded with the Board.

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter to the Island County Board of Commissioners on June 4 after the Board announced plans to open meetings with prayer. Seidel advised leaving religion to the private conscience of each individual.

The Whidbey News Times reported on June 10 that the Board voted to leave government prayer out of their meetings.

The article reported one of the three Commissioners, Jill Johnson, said she previously was in favor of government prayers, but changed her mind because she could not pray to any god but hers, the Christian one. She explained she could not expect people of other religious denominations or no religious affiliation to pray to a god that is not theirs.

Johnson and Seidel conversed civilly and at length by email regarding the proposal. Each explained their perspectives on government prayer and religion’s role in the United States government. Johnson wrote, “If I have no intentions of compromising my deeply held beliefs, I would never be able to ask someone else to compromise their beliefs on my behalf.”

Seidel responded, “I admire your refusal to ask citizens to compromise their beliefs and wish more politicians had the integrity to do the same. The separation of state and church is meant to protect both the state from religion and religion from the state.”

Island County is also home to the city of Oak Harbor, where FFRF raised concerns over City Council prayers.

Freedom From Religion Foundation