Request to Halt Unlawful Assembly Prayers

The Honorable Mike Sheridan, Assembly Speaker
Wisconsin State Capitol
Madison WI 53702

RE: Request to Halt Unlawful Assembly Prayers

Dear Speaker:

Last summer we requested of then-Assembly Speaker Michael Huesbsch that the Wisconsin State Assembly cease and desist opening sessions with prayers/sermons by either Representatives or clergy. (June 18 letter enclosed)

Rep. Huebsch never responded to our letter, which thoroughly documents the unlawful practice by the Wisconsin State Assembly of opening with sectarian prayer. As we wrote Rep. Huebsch, these practices run afoul of the narrow exceptions to legislative prayer permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court, because they often blatantly proselytized and advanced the Christian faith, excluded nonChristian and nonreligious legislators, staffers and members of the public, even denigrating other faiths. The prayers have also been routinely addressed to visitors in the Wisconsin Assembly, and to the public, which further runs afoul of Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983). The U.S. Supreme Court in January let stand a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that a city council should not be opening with Christian prayers.

Fifteen of these sixteen formal opening prayers by legislators during May 16, 2007 to May 28, 2008 were explicitly Christian. One Representative implied that nations which do not adhere to the Christian faith fall into ruins. There was even a pseudo-exorcism against the “Evil One”! It is a fact that some legislators, to honor their personal convictions, must avoid being present at the call to order of the Assembly.

On behalf of FFRF and its Wisconsin members, we respectfully request that the Assembly leadership take immediate steps to end this clear violation of the First Amendment and Art. I, Sect. 18 of the Wisconsin Constitution. May we hear from you at your earliest convenience?


Annie Laurie Gaylor

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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