FFRF opposes N.C. sheriff prayer event

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is protesting an upcoming religious event scheduled and promoted by a North Carolina sheriff’s office.

The Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, based in Jefferson, is hosting a “Time of Prayer” event on Saturday, June 24, which it is promoting on both its official website and social media pages. Highlighting the event will be a prayer led by Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of the celebrity evangelist Billy Graham and sister of Franklin Graham. The sheriff’s department is also lending its symbols- a shield and seal- to advertisements for the event, which will be held on public property.

FFRF is raising serious constitutional concerns over the blatantly Christian event. Time and again, the Supreme Court has upheld that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment mandates that government be neutral between religion and nonreligion. That means that public officials may not seek to advance or promote religion, which the actions of Ashe County do. The “Time of Prayer” event featuring a prominent evangelical speaker sends a clear message that the sheriff’s office prefers religion over secularism and Christianity over all other faiths.

Around 30 percent of Americans do not identify with Christianity and nearly 25 percent are not religious at all. This event alienates non-Christian community members, which can hold serious repercussions when it comes to the relationship of these citizens with law enforcement.

“Citizens interact with and rely on law enforcement officers during some of the most urgent and vulnerable times of their life,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel in a letter sent to Ashe County Sheriff Terry Buchanan. “These citizens should not be made to feel offended, excluded and like political outsiders because the local government they support with their taxes oversteps its power by organizing and promoting religious events.” 

FFRF is insisting that the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office cease its publicizing, organizing and promoting this and other prayer events. Law enforcement officers have secular duties that citizens trust them to attend to — and organizing a “Time of Prayer” is far beyond the scope of civil government.

“It is wholly inappropriate for the sheriff’s office to be so intimately involved in a patently religious event,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Expending public resources to support prayer and Christianity is a misuse of a government power and a reckless breach in the wall between state and church.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization, with more than 29,000 nonreligious members and chapters all over the country, including 600-plus members in North Carolina and a state chapter, the Triangle Freethought Society.

Image by AnGeL Ministries under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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