Atheist-Agnostic Group Threatens Chesapeake City Council Over PrayerJul 30, 2009
Last week, we informed the public about several threats to religious liberty taking place around the nation. A group calling itself the Freedom From Religion Foundation is pursuing several lawsuits around the country to ban public signs of faith and religious heritage, including one to prohibit the words "In God We Trust" from being inscribed in the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. (See conservative writer Peter Heck, whose column we post in the News Stand occasionally, debate this organization's president, here.) Today, we learned that this organization is making threats in Virginia. The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported earlier this week that this organization of self-proclaimed "atheists and agnostics" threatened the city of Chesapeake with legal action should it continue to open its city council meetings in prayer. As usual, it has misrepresented case law in making its threat — in particular, the Fourth Circuit Court's infamous Fredericksburg decision (see its long-winded news release).
When we heard about the case this morning, we immediately contacted our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund. ADF already is at work on a letter and model policy for the city council so that it will be able to fight back against the threatened lawsuit. We hope to have the letter and model policy to the city council and mayor today or tomorrow.
A few years ago, The Family Foundation partnered with ADF to send model prayer policies to every local government body in Virginia so that they would be aware of what the courts deem as appropriate prayers at government meetings. There are very specific guidelines for governing bodies to follow in their prayer policies — and none require so-called "non-sectarian" prayers as suggested by Freedom From Religion.
We will stay on top of this and keep you posted on this case. We will work to inform the Chesapeake City Council of its rights and fight this, and all threats, to religious liberty in the commonwealth.