Freedom From Religious Group Objects To Prayer At County Commission Meetings

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation is objecting to the practice of the Hamilton County Commission opening its meetings with prayer.

The group said, "What's the purpose of invoking Jesus' name before discussing whether to raise sewer and water rates or if Joe Blow qualifies for a variance to the zoning code?"

FFRF officials said a May 21 letter to the Hamilton County Commission "points out that the commission really has no business bringing a religious figure into the secular halls of government.

"

A local complainant alerted FFRF, a national state-church watchdog, to the fact that prayers opening commission meetings are exclusively Christian and that every prayer in 2012 has included "in Jesus' name" or a variation thereof, it was stated.

"The prayers currently invoked at commission meetings impermissibly advance Christianity and lead a reasonable observer to believe that the commission is endorsing not only religion over nonreligion, but also Christianity over other faiths," wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott.

"This practice inappropriately alienates non-Christians and nonbelievers. Their efforts to participate in public meetings are adversely affected by these types of prayers, which turn nonbelievers and non-Christians into political outsiders of their own community and government," he said 

The letter "cites legal precedents, along with aspects of court rulings that are commonly misunderstood by local governments."

"The prayers here flagrantly exceed the constraints of the 1983 Supreme Court decision, Marsh v. Chambers, which carved out a narrow exception to the Establishment Clause for legislative prayer as a nod to history and custom," attorney Elliott said.

"The Marsh exception was confined to a situation involving a nonsectarian, nondenominational prayer, led by an officiant who had not been selected based upon any impermissible religious motive, and which was addressed to the body of legislators present, and to no one else," he said.

In January 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in a North Carolina case in which Forsyth County's prayers to Jesus were found to be unconstitutional, he stated.

Attorney Elliott said, "I remind Hamilton County commissioners that the U.S. was the first nation to adopt a secular constitution, investing sovereignty in “We the People,” not a divine entity. "Significantly, there was no prayer during the Constitutional Convention. Surely if the founders did not need prayer to write the document that founded our nation, the commission can successfully conduct its business without prayer as well."


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report - And Mug Shots

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ALTMAN, KENNETH MARCUS     605 AUTUMN HARVEST LANE KODAK, 37764     43     Hamilton County          CONTEMPT OF COURT (NON SUPPORT) BALL, CHRISTINA JEAN     12475 DAYTON PIKE SALE CREEK, 37373     29 ... (click for more)

Sweeney On Trial In Federal Court For Alleged Sexually Explicit Facebook Messages With 13-Year-Old Girl

During the trial of a man accused of having sexually explicit Facebook conversations with a 13-year-old girl, it was revealed he told police, "I don't know any 13-year-old girl," but "a 17-year-old girl I might talk to." The trial is taking place in the courtroom of Federal Judge Sandy Mattice. Randy Sweeney, 49, was arrested after the young girl's mother called police. ... (click for more)

Dirt Decision At Camp Jordan May Come Back To Haunt East Ridge Councilmen

Wow. I thought the arrival of Bass Pro Shop would help bring East Ridge back to a position of prominence in the Chattanooga area, but the Council proved otherwise last night.  To the council - There is a reason that the developers want that dirt: It's valuable . You currently own it and the developer wants it. Bass Pro has already agreed to set up shop. They were going ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: I’m Certainly No Expert

Sometime on Monday night, after I had written a piece on getting swatted with a switch as a kid, I got an email from ESPN Canada asking if I would be a televised guest on “Off the Record,” the most watched daily sports show in Canada. The subject: corporal punishment in America. Are you kidding me? I am hardly an expert. All weekend my world of sports and its excitement was warped ... (click for more)

Hixson Claims Top Spot In 6-AA With Win At Central

Hixson and Central entered their volleyball match on Tuesday tied for first place in District 6-AA as both were unbeaten in three matches. The Lady Wildcats have that top spot all to themselves after pinning a 3-1 defeat on the Lady Pounders in a match held at Brown Middle School's Carole Wilson Gymnasium. Hixson won the first set with ease by a score of 25-12 before winning ... (click for more)

Boyd-Buchanan Whips Silverdale, 3-0, In 5-A Volleyball

The effects of losing six straight matches – a league loss to Grace Baptist and five in the Tennessee Tandem tournament – were still bothering Silverdale Baptist Academy in a District 5-A volleyball match at Boyd-Buchanan. But not nearly as much as the Lady Bucs’ sterling play. Boyd-Buchanan (23-13, 5-1 District 5-A), which also lost to Grace last Thursday, gained momentum ... (click for more)