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

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AARON, STEVE LYNN  2518 CRESCENT CLUB DR HIXSON, 37343  Age at Arrest: 50 years old Arresting Agency: East Ridge DOMESTIC ASSAULT DOMESTIC ASSAULT --- AKINS, JAVORIS  7604 STANDIFER GAP RD CHATTANOOGA, 37421  Age at Arrest: 20 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga DRIVING ... (click for more)

Fort Oglethorpe Arrest Report For May 20-26

Here is the Fort Oglethorpe arrest report for May 20-26: Cavin Lebron Davenport, 19, of 4000 Sunset Avenue, Chattanooga was arrested May 21 on charges of center lane violation, possession of marijuana and driving while license revoked. Shawn Daniel Whitaker, 31, of 73 Twin Lakes Road, Lafayette was arrested May 21 on charges of driving while license suspended and failure ... (click for more)

Fruit Basket Turnover

I have been teaching for 21 years now, so I’ve been through my share of school leaders. Every one of them taught me something important. Whether it was Don Bishop from Red Bank High School who, after almost 30 years at Red Bank, taught me to invest in the longevity of my career, Wade Kelly who taught me to thoroughly weigh options before making a decision, Gail Chuy who taught me ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Let Me Be Clear’

I have seen a lot of human beings who have gotten themselves in terrible messes in my time and more self-induced agony than I want to recall. Will Rogers famously said, “Give a man enough rope and he’ll hang himself.” That’s the truth and if you ever didn’t think that “Politics corrupts,” consider the genius behind the line, “It ain’t long those who get elected … begin to think ... (click for more)

Chicago Fire Wins Steinbrecher Cup 2-1 In Overtime

It took 120 minutes to decide who is the best US amatuer soccer team Saturday night at Finley Stadium as the Chattanooga Football Club took on the Chicago Fire of the PDL.   The Fire would score first but Chattanooga tied the match early in the second half.  Luke Winter scored the equalizer in the 47th minute off a Jon Finlay cross.   The game would remain tied ... (click for more)

Harrison Sparks Lookouts To 3-2 Win Over Smokies

For the second straight night Travis Harrison delivered in the clutch for the Chattanooga Lookouts. Tonight the third baseman drove in all three runs in the team's 3-2 win over the Tennessee Smokies before a crowd of 4,765 at AT&T Field. Harrison kicked off his night in the third inning with an RBI single to bring home Zack Granite who reached on a walk. Chattanooga ... (click for more)