N.C. city council stops prayers after FFRF appeal

A North Carolina city council has discontinued starting its meetings with a prayer after hearing from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A concerned Mebane resident had informed the state/church watchdog that the Mebane City Council had been starting its meetings with a scheduled prayer that had been invariably Christian and invariably led by City Council members. For instance, at the October meeting, Mayor Ed Hooks asked attendees to bow their heads and said:

Father, we just thank You for this day and thank You for your many blessings. We just ask Your guidance and that everything we say and do is pleasing to You. For we ask in Your name, amen.

At the November meeting, Hooks asked Councilman Tim Bradley to deliver the prayer:

Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we are grateful, Lord, for the opportunity to gather together and discuss the city’s business. We ask for guidance and direction as we do so. We are grateful for safe travels here and we pray for safe travels home. … Amen.

In a letter to Hooks, FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line pointed out that the prayers excluded the 24 percent of Americans who are not religious. Citizens, including Mebane’s nonreligious citizens, are compelled to come before the City Council on important civic matters, FFRF emphasized.

“Prayer at government meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive, and the best solution is to discontinue it altogether.” Line insisted.

FFRF has since been informed that the scheduled prayer was replaced with a moment of silence. The mayor reportedly read FFRF’s letter out loud and agreed with our insistence that the prayer was unconstitutional.

Lawson Brown, attorney for the City of Mebane, was quoted in a local news outlet saying: “The issue is, the prayers are all Christian prayers that we have had, and there is no diversity of opinion for other faiths. That is one of the five points that the courts have said need to be involved with any such sort of prayer.”

FFRF is always delighted to nudge officials in the right direction.

“A city council is not a church and it shouldn’t be necessary to seek divine help when making decisions over terrestrial matters such as sewers, liquor licenses and variances,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “We’re grateful the mayor of Mebane took a positive step.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 800 members and a chapter in North Carolina. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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