FFRF Objects to Prayer Proposal in Albany, New York

The Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter yesterday objecting to a proposal introduced Monday by Common Council member Anton Konev, of Albany, N.Y., to replace a moment of silence at Council meetings with prayer.

“Government prayer is unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive,” Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in the letter. “Calling upon Council members and citizens to rise and pray (even silently) is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular city government. Council members 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.”

Konev’s resolution would require Council members to lead the prayers, or have religious leaders from the community do so on their behalf.

This practice would alienate and exclude the 15% of the population who identify as nonreligious, charges FFRF. Additionally, when the majority of prayers end up being Christian (as they almost invariably do), the Council “shows unconstitutional governmental preference not just for religion over nonreligion, but Christianity over other faiths.”

A decade ago the Council took up the issue of prayer and narrowly voted for the moment of silence currently in place.

Council President Carolyn McLaughlin, who voted for the losing prayer resolution in 1999, told the Albany Times Union that although she is devoutly religious and believes strongly in the power of prayer, “Just as strongly as I believe in what I believe in, I respect another person’s right not to share that same belief. I think that when we made this compromise (moment of silence) years ago that this was in the best interests of everybody.”

Gaylor praised the Council’s “current practice of a moment of silence,” which “already accommodates private prayer, and does not exclude or offend anyone. Please avoid the divisiveness of religion in government by retaining your moment of silence policy.”

Konev’s proposal was introduced Monday and the Council members are currently reviewing it. The Council meets the first and third Monday of each month.

Action Alert!

Send a message to the mayor and members of the Albany Common Council objecting to the proposal to start government meetings with prayers. (Even one clear sentence is effective.) Nonbelievers and religious minorities should not be made to feel like political outsiders in their own community. Please keep messages brief and civil, and sign your name. It would also be helpful to send letters to the editor to local papers (see contact info below). For maximum effectiveness, write as an individual and not as someone responding to an action alert. Please do not forward this action alert to city officials. Thank you for your help!

For more information, see the Jan. 27 Albany Times Union article


Mayor Gerald D. Jennings
City Hall
24 Eagle Street, Room 102
Albany NY 12207
[email protected]

If you wish, you may contact individual Council members, or thank them for opposing government prayer. Note: An asterisk marks Council members who have publicly voiced objections to the prayer proposal:

*Carolyn McLaughlin
President of the Council
[email protected]

*Richard Conti
President Pro Tempore
[email protected]

*Dominick Calsolaro
[email protected]

Barbara Smith
[email protected]

Jacqueline Jenkins-Cox
[email protected]

Catherine Fahey
[email protected]

*John Rosenzweig
[email protected]

James Sano
[email protected]

Leah Golby
[email protected]

Anton Konev
[email protected]

Michael O’Brien
[email protected]

*Daniel Herring
[email protected]

Joseph Igoe
[email protected]

Frank Commisso Jr.
[email protected]

Media Contacts

Keep letters to the editor under 150 words and include your name, address and phone number.

Albany Times Union
Box 15000
News Plaza
Albany NY 12212
E-Mail Form

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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