Calif. city settles suit challenging prayer breakfasts

The city of Eureka, Calif., has agreed to settle a 2013 lawsuit filed on behalf of Eureka resident and FFRF Life Member Carole Beaton. The suit challenged prayers at city council meetings and city sponsorship of prayer breakfasts.

Terms of the Sept. 25 agreement require Mayor Frank Jager to stop using his office and city resources to promote his annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, with the city paying $16,000 in plaintiff’s legal fees.

The court ruled late last year that nonsectarian prayers are legal at meetings. “The city agreed that we can appeal that ruling as part of the settlement,” Beaton’s attorney Peter Martin told the Eureka Times-Standard.

Martin also sought to add Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills to the suit in May because he allegedly gave a religious devotional at the Peace Officer Breakfast in January. Mills’ scheduled deposition was canceled due to the settlement.

Beaton told FFRF that she was expecting some nasty calls and emails after filing the suit. “Instead I got over 30 calls thanking me for protecting the separation of church and state. Many were from religious people who understand that we are all better off if the government does not get involved in religion.”

The only negative call was from “a very nice man who offered to pray for me. I told him ‘thanks’ but suggested he pray instead for someone sick or dying if he thought his god could help, because I was doing fine.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation