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]