Atheist demands to end prayer at Calif. town’s meetings baseless

Alliance Defending Freedom informs city of Chico about constitutionality of opening public meetings with prayer
Friday, August 16, 2013

Attorney sound bites:  David Cortman  |  Brett Harvey

CHICO, Calif. — Alliance Defending Freedom sent a legal memo to the city of Chico Thursday after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter demanding the city stop opening public meetings with a prayer. The city’s policy allows various members of the community to offer the prayers. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are currently defending a New York town’s similar prayer policy at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Americans today should be as free as the Founders were to pray,” said Senior Counsel David Cortman. “The Founders prayed while drafting our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has ruled that public prayer is part of the ‘history and tradition of this country.’ The city of Chico, therefore, is on extremely firm ground to allow prayer before its public meetings.”

“Fortunately, Chico can not only look to the historical example of the U.S. Congress and clear Supreme Court precedent, but this past Spring the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has expressly reaffirmed the right of Cities to open their public meetings with a prayer…,” the Alliance Defending legal letter explains. The letter additionally points out that the 9th Circuit “went further to clarify the Cities need not censor the content of the prayers or prevent people from offering prayers that are distinctive to their own faith traditions.”

“A few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation merely because they heard something they didn’t like,” added Senior Counsel Brett Harvey. “Because the authors of the Constitution invoked God’s blessing on public proceedings, this tradition shouldn’t suddenly be considered unconstitutional. It’s perfectly constitutional to allow community members to ask for God’s blessing according to their conscience.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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