August 29, 2014

Atheists don’t count for pre-meeting prayers, Florida county commissioners decide

Despite U.S. Supreme Court inclusiveness ruling on prayers before public meeting, a Florida’s Brevard County board bars atheists.

County commissioners in Florida have tested a recent Supreme Court decision by banning atheists from delivering an invocation before local public meetings.

Five members of the board for Brevard County, which is east of Orlando, voted this month to limit remarks from nonreligious people to the “public comments” section of their meetings.

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.”

In its Town of Greece v. Galloway decision, the Supreme Court ruled sectarian prayers before public meetings do not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution 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 has scheduled invocations in five other Florida locations to test the ruling’s aftermath.

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