Prayer silenced at Florida meetings (August 4, 2015)

Quarterly employee luncheons for the city of Belleview, Fla., will now have a moment of silence instead of a prayer. “While individuals are certainly free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way,” wrote Staff Attorney Madeline Ziegler in a complaint letter, “calling upon city employees to pray is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular government.” A city employee had alerted FFRF to the violation.

“In spite of the longstanding tradition in this country of ‘offering thanks’ prior to eating on such occasions, the City has chosen to observe a moment of silence,” City Clerk Sandi McKamey replied on July 23.

According to a story in the Ocala Star-Banner, the Belleview City Commission “reluctantly” voted 4-1 on Aug. 4 to also replace prayer before meetings with a moment of silence. The story said FFRF’s letter about prayer at employee meetings “prompted commissioners to examine their prayers before meetings.”

Meeting prayers used to be led by clergy but due to a decline in participation, commissioners themselves were leading them.

Freedom From Religion Foundation