Nontheist and Freedom From Religious Foundation co-president Annie Gaylor joined atheists in Oklahoma to decry city council prayers.
Gaylor gathered with the Humanist Association of Tulsa, the Atheist Community of Tulsa and the local FFRF chapter this past Saturday. A topic of discussion was the regular prayer that is held before the Tulsa City Council meetings.
According to transcripts of the council’s meeting, chaplains from the Tulsa Police Department Chaplaincy Corps regularly pray before the start of proceedings. When they pray, they address the “Most holy father” and conclude prayer in “Jesus’ name.”
Just last week, the Tulsa FFRR chapter sent city Mayor Dewey Bartlett a 5-page letter criticizing the prayers for being Christian in nature and “coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular city government.” They also labeled the practice “unconstitutional.”
Religious Freedom Defense group Alliance Defense Fund has denounced the group’s efforts to censor government agencies, especially during the Christmas season.
“It’s ridiculous that people have to think twice about whether it’s okay to publicly celebrate Christmas. An overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate Christmas and are opposed to any kind of censorship of it,” ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman said in a statement Monday.
He cited the recent 3-page written attack against Franklin County, Ind., where FFRF has been threatening legal action over the public placement of a 50-year-old nativity scene. The nativity scene, put up by the county’s firefighters, was partnered with a reindeer display and later a Christmas tree in accordance to federal law.
However, FFRF urged the group to dismantle the display, saying it is “unlawful.”
Cortman contended that FFRF wrongly misconstrues the law in order to fulfill its agenda. “The misguided attacks on Christmas by the ACLU and its allies expose an even larger, more aggressive attack on anything and everything Christian,” he revealed.
In Tulsa, Gaylor linked the local FFRF efforts against the Tulsa City Council prayers to that of the national FFRF to overturn the National Day of Prayer.
FFRF sued earlier this year to disallow the dedication of a calendar day to national prayer. District Judge Barbara Crabb decided that the designation was unconstitutional April 15, 2010. However, President Barack Obama announced a week later that he would appeal the decision and issued a proclamation in May recognizing the National Day of Prayer.
In response to FFRF attacks, the ADF has announced a similar letter writing campaign, educating and encouraging city officials about their religious rights.
Cortman added, “ADF makes its legal services available free of charge to any local governments that are being wrongly attacked.”