ADF to local Calif. governments: Don’t listen to threats over prayer policies

ADF letters explain that cities, counties do not need to abandon invocations at public meetings despite threats from secularist groups
Thursday, July 28, 2011

ADF attorney sound bites (7/28/11):  Brett Harvey #1  |  Brett Harvey #2

FOLSOM, Calif. — The Alliance Defense Fund sent letters Wednesday to several California cities and one county informing them that they do not need to heed an atheist group’s demands that they drop the practice of having a prayer before public meetings.

“America’s founders opened public meetings with prayer. Public officials today should be able to do the same. In fact, a recent federal court ruling in California says they can,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation has no valid legal argument to demand that prayers be censored or eliminated; they simply don’t like prayers being uttered at public meetings, and so they are on a seek-and-destroy mission to rid cities and counties of such prayers through coordinated attacks like this one.”

The ADF letters--sent to San Bernardino County and the cities of Colton, Escondido, Highland, and Yorba Linda--explain that, on July 11, “a federal court upheld the right of Lancaster, CA to pray before their city council meetings, even if the prayers are specific to the faith traditions of the prayer giver.” An ADF-developed model invocations policy provided the basis for the city of Lancaster’s prayer policy that the court upheld in Rubin v. City of Lancaster.

“We strongly believe that ADF has crafted an invocation policy that will pass constitutional muster,” the letter states.  “For that reason, ADF is not only offering to provide deliberative bodies with an invocation policy, free of charge, but ADF will also provide a free legal defense to any local governmental body whose ADF crafted invocation policy is legally challenged.”

“The First Amendment allows public officials to acknowledge our nation’s religious heritage,” Harvey said. “Three days before the first Constitutional Congress finalized the wording of the First Amendment, these same founders hired a chaplain to open every session of Congress in prayer. Those who oppose Christian invocations are essentially arguing that the Founders were violating the Constitution as they were writing it.”

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. | | Ref. 35061, 35062, 35063, 35064, 35067