FFRF seeks to stop mayor's proselytizing

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking a Kentucky mayor to quit using her civic 'bully pulpit' as an actual pulpit. Mayor Rita Stephens of Hawesville, Ky., writes a column called "Hawesville City Hall Happenings" once a month with religious content sprinkled throughout every column.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church/state watchdog representing with over 19,000 members, sent a letter on July 22  detailing Stephens' references to prayer and Christianity in the Hancock Clarion.

  • "We started out the month celebrating our Chief of Police 'Buz's' birthday. I believe God wants us all to celebrate the day HE created us."
  • "We have had so many small water leaks this month, one of which caused a major mudslide on town hill. The good Lord works all things out."
  • "Jackie Logsdon and Amy Powell from the Kentucky Division of Water conducted our first Sanitary Sewer Survey. They will send the results next month. Say a prayer."
  • "My husband just celebrated two years free of addictions. Good job! Praise the Lord! We are so thankful."
  • "I am sure most have heard that our city employee Canaan had a serious motorcycle accident. We are thankful the good Lord gave him a miracle."

FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert noted in her letter to Stephens and the Hawesville City Council: "Mayor Stephens is representing the City, the Mayor's Office, and the City Council through this column, which reports on City government business. She cannot, in her official capacity, make religious statements, quote biblical scripture, or exhort citizens to pray."

As Mayor Stephens speaks for the city in her column, her incessant religious injunctions gives the impression that the city itself endorses religion and Christianity, FFRF wrote. Markert also wrote the City Council to ask, on behalf of a local complaint, that it cease scheduling prayer as a part of government meetings.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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