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."



Madison Man Charged With Theft, Forgery, And Impersonating A Licensed Professional

An investigation by special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has resulted in the arrest of a Madison man, who was arrested on Monday on charges of theft, forgery, and impersonating an attorney. At the request of 18 th  District Attorney General Ray Whitley, on March 20, TBI special agents began investigating Wayne Willemsen on a complaint of impersonating ... (click for more)

$1,000 A Week For Life Prize Comes In Time For Wife's Birthday

Just in time for his wife’s birthday, a Tennessee Lottery player won $1,000 a week … for life. Steve Stewart was still a bit shaky with disbelief when he claimed the unique Cash 4 Life prize Friday afternoon.  “It just doesn’t seem real,” he said. “My wife’s birthday is tomorrow and we’re taking a trip!” Mr. Stewart won from the Cash 4 Life drawing held Thursday, after ... (click for more)

Pollution For Profit?

Why should Chattanooga allow special interests to boost sediment pollution in our South Chickamauga Creek? To pad their profit margin and pass that cost on to city taxpayers? If your city council votes to reduce the storm water regulations – that is the result we can expect. Special interest homebuilders profit, but citizens pay.  More sediment pollution and paid for with ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: America’s ‘Shush’ Fund

Michael Reagan, the son of one of our nation’s greatest presidents, wrote a wonderful op-ed piece on Sunday that explained why he believes the women who have stepped forward to allege they were once abused by Judge Roy Moore. He wrote that when he, a political consultant, is asked why the women waited 40 years to bring up the charges, “I tell them I didn’t reveal my sexual abuse ... (click for more)

LSU Hammers Vols 30-10 In Hoke's Debut As Interim Coach

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Butch Jones is long gone. But Tennessee’s on-field results Saturday were about the same as they’ve been since Georgia humiliated the Vols 41-0 on Sept. 30. Nationally ranked LSU’s defense effectively stymied Tennessee’s offense most of the game and the Tigers got two rushing touchdowns in a 30-10 SEC victory before an announced crowd of 96,888 at Neyland ... (click for more)

UTC Finishes Tough Season With 10-3 Win Over ETSU

A youthful Tom Arth knew he was facing the biggest coaching challenge of his life back in the spring when he was hired as the next head man for the Chattanooga Mocs football team, but he didn’t know exactly how challenging it would be. It hasn’t been the season that Arth had planned as things didn’t always go as he had hoped, but the best news is that the season finished on a ... (click for more)