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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014

Atheist Activist Sues Fla. Atheist Group Over Legal Costs

  • (Photo: Rick Runion / The Ledger)
    EllenBeth Wachs, atheist and church-state activist from Florida.
June 24, 2013|2:47 pm

An atheist activist has filed a lawsuit against a Florida atheist organization over an estimated $6,700 in legal costs from a court case decided in March.

Earlier this month, EllenBeth Wachs filed suit against the Tampa-based Atheists of Florida, Inc. over the costs coming from a lost case against the City of Lakeland.

Filed in Polk County Court, the suit argues that while both Wachs and AoF were involved in the case, the latter is the one responsible for covering the monetary sum.

"A monetary judgment against Plaintiff has harmed her credit and her ability to refinance her mortgage," reads the lawsuit in part.  "WACHS has a clear legal right to insist upon the performance of the Defendants' duty to indemnify her."

Wachs provided The Christian Post with a press release from Thursday that specifically pointed to Edward Gollobith, current overseer of the AoF's bank account, as the one who refuses to pay out the costs.

"I had my house searched, ransacked and turned upside down, spent almost a week in solitary confinement stemming from my activism, and now I can't even refinance that house that was raided and invaded because of this judgment entered against me," said Wachs in a statement.

The issues between Wachs and the AoF stem from a lawsuit they filed against the Lakeland City Commission over its opening session with prayer.

In 2010, AoF filed suit against Lakeland over the practice, arguing that the prayers held during the meetings were a violation of church and state separation.

In order to have legal standing in the case, Wachs, a resident of Lakeland, added her name to the lawsuit. Wachs has claimed that the AoF lawyer promised that no financial risk would come to her for being involved in the suit.

The suit gained national attention, as both Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Family Research Council filed amicus briefs, with the former siding with AoF and the latter with Lakeland.

In March, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Lakeland, stating that the prayers held at meetings were constitutional and did not promote Christianity over other sects.

"We were elated to hear the news earlier today on the court's ruling," said Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields according to local media.  "I believe very strongly that this was a very important message to make: That the Constitution applies to those that want to exercise their right to offer an invocation for heavenly guidance for their elected officials."

Lakeland was also awarded $6,700 in costs, even though according to Rick Rousos of The Ledger the City spent $145,000 on the lawyers who defended them.

Wachs told CP that her lawsuit against AoF is presently in the process of being served. The Atheists of Florida did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.

Source URL : http://www.christianpost.com/news/atheist-activist-sues-fla-atheist-group-over-legal-costs-98679/