FFRF Objects to Sheriff Dept.-Sponsored Prayer Breakfast featuring Justice (Elect) Gableman

In Burnett County, Wisconsin

A Wisconsin county sheriff has been asked to cease and desist his eighth annual sponsorship of a prayer breakfast by the Burnett Sheriff Department. This year’s featured speaker is Supreme Court Justice (elect) Michael Gableman.

An invitation on Burnett County Sheriff’s Department letterhead by Sheriff Dean. W. Roland announces the department is hosting the prayer breakfast in Siren, Wis., on May 1. Roland’s official letter of invitation refers to the justice elect as “a man who is deeply committed to our Lord, his religion and his profession.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor noted in her letter of objection to Roland that the Foundation was writing “on behalf of Burnett County taxpayers who very much object, as we do, to the misuse of your office, stationery, and authority as Burnett County Sheriff, in hosting the eighth annual prayer breakfast.” She added that the fact this event has apparently been sponsored by a government department for eight years “only increases our dismay.”

Gaylor asked the sheriff to “immediately remedy this First Amendment violation” by ceasing the sponsorship. She asked for an itemization of county funds expended to host the religious event, and for private reimbursement of any public expenditures for the event. She made an open records request seeking copies of contracts, agreements, e-mails, correspondence, and invoices for the event.

Gaylor said Congress should never have inaugurated a “National Day of Prayer” (now held yearly on the first Thursday in May), which, she said, has encouraged “public officials with theocratic tendencies to misuse their public office to promote or endorse religion, and in particular to advance Christianity over other religious beliefs or no beliefs.”

She said that Gableman should cancel his appearance at the event, which signals a contempt for the constitutional principle of secular government.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is a national association of more than 12,000 freethinkers (atheists, agnostics) that has been working since 1978 to keep church and state separate.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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