FFRF grateful to Ohio officials for sacrifice on Constitution’s behalf

The Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds the courage of two local Ohio officials who sacrificed their positions to uphold the First Amendment.

The village of Carey’s Mayor Armand Getz and Law Director Emily Beckley took the initiative to stop the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance from being recited at Village Council meetings. Shockingly, the pair received so many threats for their admirable actions that they announced they will be resigning effective April 1. And, sadly, the Village Council passed a resolution on March 20 to again introduce the Pledge, as well as a moment of silence, before each meeting.

Getz has served our nation with four years of active duty, saying his military background “serves to strengthen my resolve.” He said, “If I thought for one minute that someone could conscientiously object to one or both the prayer and Pledge of Allegiance and not suffer any adverse consequences, I would have left it alone.” Beckley had wisely given a legal opinion that the council dispense with prayer to avoid any potential lawsuit.

Getz and Beckley had the correct perspective; the Carey Village Council is mistaken.

“Reciting the Lord’s Prayer at each Village Council meeting is unconstitutional,” FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote in a March 30 letter to the Carey Village Council. “Outside the Supreme Court’s very narrow constitutional exception in Galloway, federal courts have consistently struck down government-sponsored prayers that are sectarian, denominational or invoke a particular faith or deity. It is thus unconstitutional and coercive for the Village Council to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each meeting.” 

And there is no reason to replace the formal prayer with a moment of silence, even though it is preferable. Getz was right: The best solution is to discontinue this unnecessary practice altogether.

The Pledge of Allegiance, too, is unnecessary and divisive. Many Americans object to it, including the 23 percent who are nonreligious and do not believe that we are a nation “under God.” Getz, as a military veteran, correctly understood that having the Pledge recited at each Village Council meeting excludes many citizens.

Village Council members are free to invoke a higher power on their own time in their own way. Getz and Beckley were correct in their stance and deserve the support of all right-thinking folks. FFRF expresses its gratitude and urges them to reconsider their resignations. Our country needs more leadership like theirs — not less.

“It’s stirring to actually find examples of public officials jeopardizing their positions for the sake of the Constitution,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We are in awe of Mayor Getz and Legal Manager Beckley.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nontheist organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with more than 27,000 members and chapters all over the country, including 700-plus and the Northern Ohio Freethought Society in Ohio.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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