FFRF wants pope St. Augustine invite rescinded

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, on behalf of its Florida chapter and more than 21,000 members nationwide, is asking the mayor of St. Augustine to withdraw his invitation to Pope Francis to visit the city when he comes to the U.S. in 2015.

Mayor Joseph Boles issued the invitation in his official capacity and using the mayoral letterhead in a letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the U.S. (basically, the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S.).

FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker sent a letter of complaint Sept. 22 to Boles for making the invitation, calling it “a shocking breach of your civil and secular duties as mayor and to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which you took an oath to uphold.”

State-church watchdog FFRF previously protested a similar invitation made to the pope by the mayor of Green Bay, Wis.

“You were not elected bishop of St. Augustine,” the letter continues. “As mayor, you serve all St. Augustine citizens — of any or of no denominations, including Jews, Wiccans, Hindus, Muslims and Protestants — and those who protest against all religions.

“A majority of your citizens do not consider the pope their Holy Father. Nor do they consider it the business of the mayor to celebrate ‘the birthplace of Christianity in the New World, specifically Catholicism,’ ” referring to language in the mayor’s invitation noting the founding of the city by Spaniards in the 16th century.

FFRF also called the invitation “fiscally reckless, given the exorbitant costs of hosting a pope, costs which invariably end up being borne by taxpayers for crowd control, police protection, etc.”

The letter added, “It’s bad enough to put up with the Catholic Church’s harmful and antediluvian doctrines — against safe and legal abortion, contraception, gay rights, same sex marriage, the equal rights and ordination of women as priests — without citizens having to literally pay to put up the pope.

“The shameful and unremitting scandal of sexual abuse of minors within the ranks of the Catholic clergy and even more scandalous cover-ups by its highest ranking officials have tarnished dioceses through the country, and left a devastated trail of victims and their families. Nearly 100 priests have been sued or accused of such abuse in Florida, including St. Augustine. You are inviting the head of the body that not only failed to protect the children, but was complicit in their sexual and mental abuse.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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