Winter Garden ends prayers, requirement to stand for pledge

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its local chapter, the Central Florida Freethought Community, have halted invocations at Winter Garden (Fla.) City Commission meetings. 

On Aug. 28, Mayor Rees and the police chief ejected a local activist and member (whom FFRF pseudonymously calls John Thoreau) from the meeting for refusing to stand for the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance. FFRF wrote a letter protesting this appalling violation of the Constitution.

FFRF asked the Commission to “get rid of prayer altogether” and asked Mayor Rees to explain at the next public meeting “that citizens are within their rights to remain sitting for the pledge and that it does not reflect a lack of patriotism.” 

The commission held a special meeting today and voted 3-2 to substitute a moment of silence for an invocation. Mayor Rees was one of the votes to keep the invocation. Four CFFC members, including Thoreau and chapter leader, David Williamson spoke out against the prayers. 

“Thoreau” told FFRF Attorney Andrew Seidel, who wrote FFRF’s letter, that he is “very pleased with the commission’s decision.” 

Seidel added, “We’re happy that the commission has decided to be inclusive instead of divisive. Religion has no place in the halls of government.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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