Atheist Group Tells Michigan City Council to Stop Praying on Taxpayers' Time

An atheist organization has sent a letter of complaint to a city council in Michigan over the local government's usage of prayer at council meetings.

The Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has threatened legal action against the Saginaw City Council.

In a letter sent to Saginaw City Manager Tim Morales, FFRF staff attorney Rebecca S. Markert wrote that Saginaw "should drop these prayers altogether."

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"Government prayers exclude a significant portion of Americans from the democratic process, are of dubious legality, and are a repudiation of our secular history," wrote Markert.

"City Council members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way. They do not need to worship on taxpayers' time."

Debbie Buck, executive assistant to the city manager for the city of Saginaw, told The Christian Post that the city is not commenting on the matter.

"This matter has been referred to the city attorney for review, and the city does not have further comment at this time," said Buck to CP.

The council meeting prayers often happen in conjunction with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and are led by a member of the city council, according to various agenda minutes.

The practice has reportedly been going on in Saginaw City Council meetings for years, and according to local media, has little opposition.

While the city council declined comment to CP, Saginaw Mayor Pro Tem Amos O'Neal told local media earlier this week that he took issue with the FFRF's complaint.

"Our country is founded on God. Our money has 'In God We Trust' on it," said O'Neal to WNEM Channel 5 on Thursday.

"I have a right to pray in public. That's our right. So, I think it's a matter of determining based on the information we have what course of action we'll take. I don't see us refraining from praying. I just don't see that happening."

FFRF's letter to Saginaw comes at a time when the United States Supreme Court is considering the issue of town council prayer at meetings.

Last November, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a case surrounding the constitutionality of a prayer policy for a New York State town council.

A decision on that case is still pending. As for Saginaw, officials have told local media that they intend to continue their prayer practice at the opening of meetings.

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