Sunday, July 12, 2015

Florida Atheists Sue to 'Pray' at County Meetings

Brevard County Commissioners have unanimously and consistently denied atheists the platform to give an invocation at the opening of their public meetings because, by definition, atheists are not "members of a faith community."  In response, the Central Florida Freethought Community and the ACLU et. al. filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Orlando demanding the right to replace prayers to God Almighty with so-called atheist prayers — but to whom/what?

For background, read Atheists Commandeer Invocations at Lake Worth, FL City Council and also read Atheists, Satanists Force Bible Ban in Florida

UPDATE 7/27/15: Florida Battles Satanic 'Prayer' City-by-City

Also read U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of public prayer, and read the resulting resurgence in public prayer following the Supreme Court decision.

-- From "Atheists sue Brevard County commissioners over invocation policy — Atheist group raises Hell over Brevard County invocation policy" by Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel 7/7/15

The lawsuit alleges Brevard County "has repeatedly rejected and ignored requests from atheists and humanists to give opening invocations at meetings of its Board of County Commissioners. The County has adopted a policy of permitting only people who hold theistic religious beliefs to give the invocations."

The ACLU and other plaintiffs argue that Brevard County's practice not only violates the U.S. and Florida Constitutions but also ignores last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed sectarian prayer to open public meetings as along as governmental bodies do not favor one belief over another.

Most governmental boards in Central Florida have adopted invocation policies inviting representatives of different beliefs to open public meetings with ceremonial remarks. . . .

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Atheists sue Brevard County over public prayers" by Greg Pallone, Brevard County Reporter, TV News 13 (Orlando, FL) 7/7/15

At Tuesday’s meeting the board got to business as usual but at the end of the meeting, an agenda item about that very thing was on the list.

The board discussed a clarification policy proposed by Commissioner Curt Smith.

“The board wishes to formalize a policy on invocations that is not hostile to faith based religions, and that does not endorse secular humanism, or non-belief of traditional faith based religions, comprised of constituents who believe in God,” said Smith.

For those who do not believe in God, they would be permitted to speak in the public comment section of meetings.

The board voted 5-0 in favor of the policy.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Brevard sued over County Commission invocation policy" by Dave Berman, FLORIDA TODAY (Brevard County, FL) 7/8/15

The County Commission limits its pre-meeting invocations to representatives of the "faith-based community." The resolution approved Tuesday specifies that atheists, agnostics and other non-believers could speak during the public comment portion of the meeting

County commissioners also authorized Brevard County Attorney Scott Knox to file legal action in state court, asking a judge to uphold the County Commission's action as legal.

One of the plaintiffs in the case against Brevard County, David Williamson, the director of the Central Florida Freethought Community, said having separate parts of the meeting for the faith-based community and others is not appropriate.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Williamson; the Central Florida Freethought Community; the Space Coast Freethought Association; its president, Chase Hansel; the Humanist Community of the Space Coast, its president; Keith Becher; and Brevard County resident Ronald Gordon.

Their attorneys are from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Atheists may not pray, Brevard (Fla.) county commissioners say" by Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service (Washington Post) 8/21/14

In a letter to David Williamson, founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community, the board wrote, “The prayer is delivered during the ceremonial portion of the county’s meeting, and typically invokes guidance for the County Commission from the highest spiritual authority, a higher authority which a substantial body of Brevard constituents believe to exist.”

The commissioners’ move may be intended as a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s Town of Greece v. Galloway. In that decision, the court ruled sectarian prayers before public meetings do not violate the Establishment Clause as long as they are open to everyone.

The Central Florida Freethought Community says on its website that it is not a proponent of prayers or invocations before public meetings, but will seek opportunities to give them in order to test the fairness of Greece. The group has scheduled invocations in five other Florida locations, according to its website.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Atheists Sue Florida County Over Policy Banning Non-Religious from Delivering Invocations" by Heather Clark, Christian News Network 7/11/15

[Commissioner Curt] Smith says that he doesn’t believe that a non-religious group can rightfully accuse the county of engaging in discrimination.

“If they were a religion and they honored the word of God, they would have every opportunity to speak to us during that period that we set aside to honor God,” he stated. “The business of the community is secular, and these folks are admitted secularists, so they can take part in the secular business anytime they wish.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Click headlines below to read related articles:

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Atheists' Sanctuary City Created: Madison, Wisconsin

Atheists Force Michigan Schools to Ban Christians

Atheists Force Bible Ban at Colleges Across America

Colleges Hire Humanist Chaplains for the Nonbelievers

Atheists, Liberals Lament Recent Supreme Court Religious Liberty Rulings