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."


Man Wanted In Bradley County Arrested In Washington, D.C.

The Bradley County Sheriff's Office was informed by the Washington, D.C. Police Department that El Hadji Alpha Madiou Toure was arrested for his involvement in a first-degree murder in Washington, D.C. Further investigation by detectives determined the male had several aliases which include Elie Brown and Elhadji Alpha Madiou Toure, who is wanted by the agency for an outstanding ... (click for more)

Dalton Police Department Seeks ID Of Woman In Fraud Case

The Dalton Police Department is asking for the public’s help identifying a woman who used stolen bank account information and a fake ID to rip off nearly $2,000 from a couple in Texas. The transaction was recorded on a bank’s surveillance system. The crime was reported to Dalton investigators on March 23,  by Regions Bank’s security division. The crime occurred in late ... (click for more)

Slaxxon Regret - And Response

Back in the seventies my three oldest brothers had a buddy named Steve Slack. “Slack” was a star soccer player at Baylor and he grew up on Lookout Mountain, which is where I grew up. He and Jimmy, Henry and Bill went to the University of Virginia where they were roommates in an old, beat up house that was painted pink. Naturally, the place became known as the “Pink Palace” but lest ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Oh Yes, I Loved West

One of my most beloved friends died early Saturday morning at the age of 67. Then again, West Oehmig’s only brother – King – died a couple of years ago at 63 so it wasn’t by happenstance I remembered Abraham Lincoln’s famous line: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” Here are two brothers who lived larger than any other pair I can ... (click for more)

Central's Parrott Throttles Ooltewah With 1-Hit Shutout

Ooltewah looked like it was still on spring break. Central was sharp, Brooke Parrott dazzling, Mikayla Gill swung the bat well and the Lady Pounders played like an unbeaten, once-tied ballclub. Parrott threw a one-hit shutout – the hit was a wind-blown pop on the infield – and Gill slapped a two-run double off Kayla Boseman to right-center field in the third inning and ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Thumps Bledsoe Co., 11-1

The Notre Dame baseball team was in a race of a different kind Monday evening and the Fighting Irish came out on top in all three categories. Facing the Bledsoe County Warriors at Notre Dame’s Hunter Field, the Irish beat the rain, they got finished before dark and most importantly, beat the Warriors 11-1 in five innings as they improved to 4-2 overall with the same record in ... (click for more)