FFRF calls for end to Lakeland commission’s prayers

The City Commission of Lakeland, Fla., shouldn't be starting public meetings with prayers, especially with sectarian invocations that invoke the name of Jesus, the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in an April 8 letter to Mayor Gow Fields and commissioners.

The Foundation complained to Lakeland officials on behalf of a resident — one of FFRF's 750 Florida members — who reported a state-church violation was taking place in Lakeland.

FFRF called the prayers unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive. "Calling upon city commissioners and citizens to rise and pray, even silently, is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular city government," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president. "City commissioners are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way. They do not need to worship on taxpayers' time."

Government prayer is illegal and unconstitutional because it amounts to an official endorsement of religion and excludes nonbelievers from fully participating in the workings of their own government, the Foundation said. "The commission compounds the violation when a majority of prayers are to Jesus or a majority of the officiants are Christian or Christian clergy, which inevitably happens."

Gaylor urged the city to dispense with all prayers and concentrate on city matters. "The tone that should be set is one that respects and reveres the secular and entirely godless U.S. Constitution, which city officials took an oath to uphold, and whose only references to religion are exclusionary."

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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