The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has threatened to sue the Harrison School Board over the board’s practice of opening its meetings with prayer.
According to The Harrison Daily, the board received a letter from the group after a school patron contacted FFRF.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote that, “It is coercive, embarrassing, and intimidating for non-religious citizens to be required to make a public showing of their nonbelief (by not rising or praying) or else to display deference toward a religious sentiment in which they do not believe, but which their board members clearly do.”
Frankly, I find it a little ironic the Freedom From Religion Foundation would consider something as innocuous as opening a meeting with prayer to be “coercive” and “intimidating,” when the group clearly is trying to intimidate the school board by sending it this letter.
The Harrison School Board is a governing body holding public meetings, and the U.S. Supreme Court as well as lower federal courts have ruled repeatedly that it is constitutional for these sorts of meetings to begin with prayer.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 23, 2017
On Thursday the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a ruling effectively striking a Fayetteville ordinance granting special protections to people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Family Council President Jerry Cox released a statement, saying, “This is a good ruling. Laws about discrimination are best left to the state and federal governments. The City of Fayetteville overstepped when it passed this ordinance. I’m glad the Arkansas Supreme Court understood that and struck the ordinance down.”
Cox criticized the Fayetteville ordinance, saying, “The ordinance granted special protections for people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but it failed to protect religious Arkansans. Under this ordinance, a minister could have been penalized for declining to solemnize a same-sex marriage, and people of faith who own catering services, florist shops, wedding venues, and so on could have been penalized for declining to participate in or cater to same-sex ceremonies. One of the founding principles of our nation is the free exercise of religion. Fayetteville’s ordinance penalized people for living and operating according to their faith. The Arkansas Supreme Court did the right thing in striking this ordinance.”
Recently we wrote how the City of El Dorado wasn’t yielding to atheist groups who oppose the city’s 40 Days of Prayer campaigns.
This week Americans United for Separation of Church and State took to the Internet, complaining El Dorado “went ahead with a planned ’40 Days of Prayer’ event in October despite a warning from Americans United.”
Hats off to everyone in El Dorado for exercising their religious liberties and refusing to yield to these groups from out of state! Public prayer is a longstanding tradition in this country, as are calls to prayer from public officials.
Meanwhile, a Nativity scene in Michigan has been relocated from a public park to a church’s property following complaints from the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation. FFRF has worked since 2007 to get the Nativity scene removed from public property in Menominee, MI–even though the Nativity scene is a longstanding tradition in that town.
As we have written numerous times, public officials and local governments can celebrate Christmas, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled those celebrations can include Nativity displays and similar decorations. Nativity scenes do not have to be placed on private property to be constitutional. They can appear on public property without violating the First Amendment.