FFRF testifies against prayer at DuPage board meetings

RJ and CM

Freedom From Religion Foundation attorneys will be testifying tomorrow morning, Tuesday, March 26, before the DuPage County Board in Wheaton, Ill., against prayer at board meetings.

A motion has been introduced to eliminate such invocations from the County Board’s regular order of business. FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne and Legal Fellow Colin McNamara of Madison, Wis., will be giving public testimony at 10 a.m. at the county building in Wheaton.

Objections to the practice of religious invocations (nearly all Christian) at DuPage County Board meetings have been gathering momentum for a while. Board Member Dawn DeSart questioned it back in December, stating that she was “disturbed by the primarily Christian prayers.”

But matters came to a head after “Friendly Atheist” Blogger Hemant Mehta delivered a freethinking invocation earlier this month. The board’s more secular-minded board members used the occasion to argue that the very practice of invocation is exclusionary and divisive. DeSart actually made copies of a blog post for her fellow board members arguing her case, invoking John F. Kennedy’s remarks as a presidential candidate on the separation of state and church.

“It is my opinion that we, as an all-inclusive board, do not need an invocation prayer each meeting,” DeSart stated. Two other board members share her concerns.

Jayne and McNamara will be testifying in favor of the motion to discontinue prayer. Jayne will be discussing the potential legal pitfalls of keeping the invocation, and McNamara will be discussing the relevant policy considerations.

“The Freedom From Religion Foundation has long held that prayer at governmental meetings is unnecessary and divisive,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re glad to offer our support to DuPage County board members who think similarly.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national freethought association dedicated to keeping state and church separate, with more than 31,000 members and several chapters all over the country, including over 1,000 members and its Metropolitan Chicago chapter in Illinois.

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.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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