FFRF denounces Christian-only town hall in Redding, Calif.

 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has advised two Redding, Calif. officials against hosting future faith-based government events after they held an exclusionary “Faith & Values Town Hall” last week.

Several citizens reported to the national state/church watchdog that Redding Mayor Julie Winter and Senator Brian Dahle (R, CA-1) organized and participated in the “Faith and Values Town Hall” held in the Little Country Church on Thursday, June 13. At that time, Dahle had already been sworn in as a state senator and Winter was acting in her capacity as mayor of Redding. The invitation to the event read:

"Christians from local churches are invited to a Faith & Values Town Hall with your newly elected Senator, Brian Dahle, moderated by Redding Mayor, Julie Winter.

There are particular values that those of the Christian faith care deeply about as they shape the society and culture of our cities, states, and nation. Because it can be difficult to know who our elected officials are, and what policies and legislation they are voting for on our behalf, many Christians have chosen to simply pray for the nation. Prayer is vital, but in addition to prayer, all citizens — including those of faith — are encouraged to be informed as they participate in the basics of their civic duties.

Whether you consider yourself Republican, Independent, Democrat, or unaffiliated, bring your questions or come hear the conversation at this unique and respectful gathering."

According to One News Now, at the forum, Dahle said, “I did not win this race. God won this race. If I wasn’t supposed to be in the senate, I wouldn’t be in the senate.” A Christian flag flanked the stage.

This event was categorically divisive and projected an intent to deliberately discriminate against non-Christians, FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel pointed out in a complaint letter to the elected officials.

“Anyone is free, of course, to attend church, worship, and even speak at a church as a private citizen. But neither of you appeared at this event as a private citizen and the event itself was organized so private citizens could meet their elected representatives,” Seidel writes. “Dividing those citizens along religious lines—into a favored class of church-going Christians with everyone else as second class citizens—is wildly inappropriate and shows poor judgment that bodes ill for your constituents.”

Elected officials may not use the power, title, resources or prestige of the public office they occupy to advance or promote their personal religious beliefs, FFRF reminds the pair..

“Public officials are not representing all citizens when they exclude minority religions and nonreligious people from official governmental events,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor comments. “It not only establishes a clear preference for Christian constituents, but also gives Christians inside access to influential decision makers.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 4,000 members in California and a chapter in Sacramento. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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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