Day of Faith Lawsuit

On July 26, 2006, 8-year-old DreShawna Davis was shot dead in the city of Jacksonville, Florida.

The city, in response, wanted “more aggressive measures to reduce the homicide rate.”

So mayor John Peyton took action. He held a rally in the local Veterans Memorial Arena, drawing 6,000 people. The rally was called “Day of Faith: Arming our Prayer Warriors.”

Because as we all know, violence can only be stopped by prayer.

Cops be damned.

The rally in itself is disturbing. But what’s worse is that the city used $101,000 of taxpayer money for the festivities.

Edwin Kagin, attorney for American Atheists, sued the city. Of course, he was in the right. The city should not be using tax money to promote religion. (Not to mention the money could have been better spent paying for police protection.)

To counter the claims made by Kagin, the city stated that “In addition to the Christian ministers and choirs that participated… one Jewish and one Muslim leader spoke.”

Thank you for clearing that up.

A settlement was finally reached last Friday. The city had to write a (symbolic) letter of apology to American Atheists, pay them approximately $5,000 in legal costs, and “avoid holding non-secular events in the future.”

In return, Kagin dropped the demands for the repayment of the $101,000.

Here is the letter sent to American Atheists, signed by Susan Pelter, Jacksonville’s director of public information:

To American Atheists Inc.:

On behalf of the City of Jacksonville, Florida, this letter confirms that there was no intention to violate the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in the Day of Faith Program. The City of Jacksonville has issued the following directive regarding future City of Jacksonville, Florida programs:

1. Each program must have a secular purpose;

2. Each program must be one which neither advances nor inhibits religion; and

3. Each program must not foster excessive entanglement with religion.

We trust this letter addresses your concerns. Should you have any questions now or in the future, please do not hesitate to call me.

Mayor Peyton has said in response to all this that, in the future, he should get more advice from the General Counsel’s Office.

Perhaps he might think about doing something to actually reduce the crime while he’s at it.

[tags]Dreshawna Davis, Jacksonville, Florida, homicide, John Peyton, Veterans Memorial Arena, Day of Faith: Arming our Prayer Warriors, Edwin Kagin, American Atheists, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Susan Pelter, Constitution, religion, atheism[/tags]

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  • monkeysuncle

    I note with some interest that the mayor claimed that the $101,000 was money well spent. Since the prayer rally didn’t accomplich its intended purpose (homicides continued at the same rate as previous), the mayor may have been referring to his chances for re-election.

    Nothing fails like prayer. They should have hired more cops.

  • sonofdy

    So your friends here acheived only one thing. They managed to supress freedom of thought and speech.

    Welcome to the atheist dictatorship.

  • Siamang


    Welcome. We are friendly atheists here. Be aware that we are here to seek understanding and treat with respect people with different beliefs.

    Any citizen was free to organize a day of prayer in Jacksonville. You are still free to do it yourself, with thousands of your own friends and thousands of your OWN dollars.

    Just not taxpayer money.

    You have the freedom, and I’d fight for you to have that freedom. Just as I’d fight it if the city of Jacksonville used taxpayer money to have a “Praise Satan” day or a “Praise Scientology Day”.

    Welcome. May you stay here a long time and learn about friendly atheists.

    But, like most people who come here with a negative attitude… well, all people who come here with a negative attitude, I fear you will be just like all the rest. People come here spoiling for a fight, and preach at us, then leave one or two days later, never to be heard from again.

    Will you promise that you won’t leave, and you’ll listen to some people here and allow us to change your mind about whether or not atheists are friendly, loving, kind-hearted people?

    Anyway, welcome traveller, for as long as you stay. May you find what you seek here.

  • MTran

    sonofdy said:

    So your friends here acheived only one thing. They managed to supress freedom of thought and speech.

    I’m starting to think that sonofdy is simply a hate filled troll.

    There was no suppression of speech or thought here at all.

    The only illegal and unconstitutional action was by the mayor and the city, which improperly paid for and promoted religious activities with tax dollars.

    We are all free to think or say what we choose under the 1st Amendment. Non-governmental entities may organize any prayer programs they like. But the mayor behaved improperly, illegally, irresponsibly, and offensively in this instance. He also wasted a lot of money in the process.

  • Marc Holt

    ‘sonofdy’, you didn’t get it, did you? The aim of the lawsuit wasn’t to suppress free speech or freedom to worship. It was to force the city to recognize that they broke the law by using taxpayer’s money to hold a prayer meeting that had nothing to do with fighting crime.

    So, where do you stand now? Wouldn’t you rather see your tax dollars spent on something meaningful, rather than gathering a bunch of people to mumble meaningless phrases in the hope that ‘someone up there’ will do something about it?

    Didn’t Jesus say something like, “God helps those who help themselves?” So get off your knees and DO something constructive with your life. Praying isn’t going to help.

  • Atlee Yarrow

    I would never have stepped back on this issue for a $5,000 pay off! If I have the time and background to follow through there would be $101,000 back in the taxpayer’s pockets and not city hall asking for a tax increase to pay even further another cause about God or the lack of God. Now I feel $106,000 short for the citizens and wonder about citing this for the next election to candidates listed for 2007.