Reflection replaces prayer in Eau Claire

The County Board in Eau Claire, Wis., voted 23-4 on May 3 to start meetings with a “moment of reflection” instead of an invocation. FFRF formally objected Feb. 25, 2011, to the prayer practice that’s long been in place, including regular invocations given by eight current board members. “Government prayer is unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive,” wrote FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Calling upon board members and citizens to rise and pray (even silently) is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular city government. Board members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way. They do not need to worship on taxpayers’ time.” In April, a board committee recommended replacing the prayer with the county’s mission statement. That became a moment of reflection in the measure approved May 3, 2011. The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported that Supervisor Paul Lokken was sorry that the committee “knuckled under” to pressure from FFRF and local prayer opponents. “It’s time to say, ‘We’re going to do it our way,’ ” Lokken said. Supervisor Sue Miller, one of those previously offering “nonreligious” invocations, recalled being asked once why her remarks didn’t mention God or Jesus. “Whose god should I represent?” Miller said she responded. — Bill Dunn

Freedom From Religion Foundation