Saturday, December 10, 2011

Prayer at Florida County Meetings Will Continue

Manatee County Commissioners have discounted the national atheists' threat to stop praying, saying that Florida circuit law and federal case law supports their longstanding practice at the opening of Board meetings.

-- From "Manatee County Commission to keep prayers in meetings" posted at Sarasota Herald-Tribune 11/24/11

When the Manatee County commissioners convene . . . for several land use decisions, their first order of business will be to ask the Rev. Joey Mimbs of Bethel Baptist Church to lead them and the audience in prayer.

The county recently received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin about the long-standing practice of the commission opening meetings with an invocation by a member of the local clergy. The foundation was reportedly acting on behalf of Manatee County residents who wished to remain anonymous.

Yet Chief Deputy County Attorney James Minix informed the commissioners this week that the practice does not violate federal or state case law.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "FFRF Asks BOCC to Cease Public Prayer at Meetings" posted at The Bradenton Times 11/21/11

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners, addressed to Chairwoman Carol Whitmore, asking again that the BOCC cease asking the public to stand at the beginning of each meeting for a Christian prayer. The organization called the practice “unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive.”

They went on to argue that the practice could make public citizens in attendance for the purpose of conducting business with the county feel uncomfortable should they wish not to participate. They argued that it was “coercive and embarrassing", as well as “beyond the scope of secular county government.”

The group argues that the prayers being offered do not meet the narrowly defined public prayer exceptions included in the Supreme Court ruling in Marsh vs. Chambers (1983).

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Manatee County Commission Reaffirms Practice of Invocation Before Meetings" posted at The Bradenton Times 11/29/11

“We’re not trying to impose any particular religion on the public or at the meeting,” [Manatee County Chief Deputy County Attorney Jim] Minix said. “We try very hard to make it as open and non-denominational as possible.”

In a memo to the Board earlier this year, Minix stated the Commission “has the right to open the meetings with prayer,” and suggested that some adjustments to the procedures for soliciting presenters who deliver the invocation. Since that time, the County has called on presenters from a full spectrum of religions with operations in Manatee County. Any local group may request to be added to that group to ensure no bias against any religion.

County Attorney Tedd Williams said last week he did not think there were constitutional grounds for a complaint against prayer before the meetings based upon recent rulings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Judicial Circuit, which has jurisdiction over federal cases originating in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.