FFRF Warns Memphis City Council Not to Open Sessions with Christian Prayers

The Memphis (Tennessee) City Council allows a “Chaplain of the Day” to open sessions with prayer. They also give clergy a goodie bag.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter requesting the council to stop that practice, and a lawsuit is forthcoming if they don’t. You can read that letter along with some of the very-Christian prayers here (PDF).

A local news station ran a piece about the issue:

 

The highlights of the video include City Council Chairman Harold Collins saying:

“I’m not sure they understand any particular concept or belief or faith.”

They understand it pretty damn well… FFRF co-president Dan Barker used to be a fundamentalist Christian himself. They know why people believe and they have the added bonus of knowing why none of it makes sense.

The money quotation, though, comes from FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor in response to Collins:

“Many of us are from a Christian background, therefore we use our faith and the lessons we have learned and been taught to make some decisions,” [says Collins.]

“That is bogus,” says Gaylor. “If you can’t make a decision about sewers and liquor licenses without ‘Divine guidance’ then what are you doing on the city council? The city is actively promoting Christianity. It’s not only favoring religion over non-religion, which is barred by our Constitution, but one religion over another.”

I’d like to know what prayer they say before issuing those liquor licenses…

Collins has said he will respond in writing by Tuesday.

People ask why they should support atheist organizations. This is why. It’s a powerful moment when a group’s staff attorney can instill the fear of no-god in a city or state government :) FFRF has the Constitution on its side. Memphis has a god. I’ll take FFRF every time.

(Thanks to Benjamin for the link!)

  • Tony

    It’s really only American fundies who think that there is a prohibition against alcohol. Christians should be cognizant of the large amount of boozing that goes on in the bible, although in the spirit of attempting to justify personal beliefs using scripture often the really crazy ones will claim that where the bible says “wine” what they mean is “grape juice”.

  • Scott M.

    I think some good atheists in the area should get together to attend these prayer meetings. They should ALSO bring along some electronic Gobble-Gobble turkey calls!

    When the prayer begins, the turkey calls should start! It’s nice to use our freedom of speech against the free exercise clause.

    I’d recommend bringing a braying jackass call but it seems the city council has this covered.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    I hope the Memphis City Council also distributes barf bags to all who have to sit through their prayer nonsense.

  • Ryan

    I am an atheist, my fiance is not. If you’re interested in a Christian persepctive …

    I watched this video with her in the room and when it was over she said Gaylor was crazy and couldn’t believe this is an issue. She said if everyone is okay with the prayer then what’s the big deal. She also doesn’t see how it interferes with the separation of church and state.

    She also made it sound like she thought they were under fire for wasting time on prayer. She said that’s ridiculous and there had to be some sort of “tooling” around the people on the council do so why is just the prayer a problem? I tried to explain it has nothing to do wasting time and someone even suggested a moment of silence instead of prayer.

    I tried to explain the perspective of FFRF and she just walked away and said that was ignorant of how she felt and it was pointless to argue with me.

  • elf_man

    The conclusion of “it shouldn’t be on government time” could leave the wrong impression.

    Still, it all comes down to “using their faith” which is really just “truthiness”, valuing what feels right over the actual facts.

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com Robert Madewell

    The news segment needed to mention that non-sectarian prayers are ok. As long as the prayer doesn’t mention a specific diety (like Jesus), the FFRF wouldn’t have filed the suit. They made it sound like no prayer at all is the goal. It’s not.

  • Revyloution

    I’d like to know what prayer they say before issuing those liquor licenses…

    Thats easy. These are the drunkards favorite passages:

    Proverbs 31:6-9
    Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

    and

    Psalms 104:15
    Wine that maketh glad the heart of man.

    Of course, there are just as many passages condemning drinking. The bible is truly the most wise and truthful book. You can use to it support anything!

  • muggle

    “I’m not sure they understand any particular concept or belief or faith.”

    I’m pretty danged sure that Mr. Harold Collins has no concept whatsoever of what this country is. And he certainly doesn’t understand either religious freedom or tolerance.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    The leaders of Memphis are definitely some clueless people; and all of their prayers just can’t seem to lower the crime rate.
    If there are any lulz that come out of this ordeal, the aforementioned money quote is certainly one generator of them.

  • Gordon

    She said if everyone is okay with the prayer then what’s the big deal. She also doesn’t see how it interferes with the separation of church and state.

    Well how can you know “everyone” is ok with prayer? It is just another form of bullying.

  • http://jessicasideways.com Jessica Sideways

    I am so glad that I no longer live in the Bible Belt. Yes, Denver is much better than Texas was…

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9eTwPgl0GU&feature=related Captain Beefheart vs Dr. Dark

    They understand it pretty damn well… FFRF co-president Dan Barker used to be a fundamentalist Christian himself.

    So, if Dan Barker was religious at some point, he COMPLETELY understood faith? Sorry, I think that speaking in tongues barely qualifies as understanding religion and faith.

  • MemphisJed

    The opening prayer has nothing on the closing prayer.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    Here’s a week-old article on this issue from the (primary) Memphis paper. The comments give a decent example of the crazy & ignorant in Memphis.
    http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2009/sep/13/council-prayers-draw-protest/

    Plenty of commenters still rebut the nonsense, though. Is good, yes.


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