Anonymous Woman Suing City Over Prayers Reveals Her Identity

Last week, I mentioned how the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors in Virginia began each meeting with a prayer to Jesus Christ.

An anonymous woman had sued the city in response — but a judge ruled that the only way for the lawsuit to proceed was if she revealed her identity.

In a country where atheists can get harassed for simply suggesting, “If people want to pray, they should do it privately, not during the taxpayers’ time,” it’s no surprise the person wanted to keep her identity hidden.

But the lawsuit is too important and Barbara Hudson is making herself known:

The lawsuit against the board is not an attack on anyone’s religion, Hudson said. Supervisor-led sectarian Christian prayers during public meetings amount to government promotion of one religion over others. That creates a danger to everyone’s religious freedom, she said.

Why don’t the supervisors just pray to one God, with an all-encompassing invocation? Hudson asked.

“They could have avoided the whole thing by praying in the name of God,” said Hudson, who is not a Christian. “They want to promote their own version of religion.”

“I just think it’s very sad that the board of supervisors refuses to embrace the idea of God as a source of comfort and guidance, that it has to be sectarian religion,” Hudson said.

Hudson declined to reveal her faith.

“I think religion is a very deeply personal issue,” Hudson said.

Well, it wouldn’t have been ok if they prayed to a generic God, either, but at least the lawsuit can continue.

Without taking a stance on the issue at hand, the Danville Register & Bee still made a salient point in an editorial:

On Valentine’s Day, we learned that Jane Doe was Hudson.

The symbolism of that date represents a challenge to those people who are frustrated and angered by this lawsuit. At the very least, Hudson should be treated with tolerance, regardless of how one feels about this lawsuit and the core issue of public sectarian prayer by elected government officials.

This community will be judged, in part, by what happens to Hudson from here on out. Knowing her name shouldn’t change her life. She should be left alone. That’s not an endorsement of her stand against the Board of Supervisors, it’s simply the only decent thing to do.

The point is that we have to live with one another, regardless of how we feel about this case. No community, including this one, can afford to allow its angriest members single out one person for scorn and ridicule, even if the majority believes she’s wrong about some of the most important things in their lives.

Let’s hope she stays safe and wins her case.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    Her message? Religious ostracism is wrong and illegal. Unless it’s against atheists.

    • http://twitter.com/ThyGoddess Michelle

      I agree. This is what she is saying.  This woman is not fighting for our side. She’s fighting to single out atheists and offend US, but not other deities.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=628665833 Bill Santagata

         The Supreme Court ruled in Marsh v. Chambers that legislative bodies have the right to begin their sessions with ceremonial invocations. If she tried to get all references to God removed, she would have lost. It is well within the City’s right to give non-sectarian invocations. But they will lose this lawsuit on the grounds that they were purely Christian in nature.

        Joyner v. Forsyth County is binding precedent in the 4th Circuit which serves the Commonwealth of Virginia. This case also struck down purely Christian prayers at county board meetings.

  • george.w

    Is there room on our money for Stevenson’s quote “A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular”?

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps she’s just protecting herself from all out community rage. She may avoid backlash by saying she still believes in “a” God, whether it’s true or not.

    • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

      If that were true wouldn’t she have actually said she believes in god? She doesn’t explicitly do that. It’s just implied. And she’s encouraging the board of supervisors to pray to a unspecified god.

  • Anonymous

    Brian R Shipman    

       I saw a similar case in Arkansas about ten years
    ago when a local citizen objected to bible classes in a very rural school
    district. That citizen filed suit through the help of the ACLU and remained
    anonymous throughout the process.  After
    the school board backed down the citizen’s identity became known and verbal harassment
    followed.

      
    What puzzles me in cases like these is the shear lack of dialogue when
    someone objects to religious ceremonies on public ground. Instead we have evangelical
    chest pumping met with legal action. Not that a good public conversation would
    solve the issue but it sure would be a god change of pace and it might
    demonstrate that we actually want to learn from each other.

        Theorist *Paulo
    Freire believed dialogue happens when people want to learn and that dialogue is
    a mechanism for learning. Are we all to old and set in our ways that we just
    cant  learn from the other side? Is
    there any common ground between Christians and Atheist where we can begin a
    dialogue? If the answer is yes then the first step here, according to Philosopher
    *Hans Gadamer, is to recognize our own bias and respect the bias of others. The
    end result may still be a lawsuit to properly remove religious ceremonies from
    public spaces. But who knows, we might also learn something about each other.

     

    Brian R Shipman   

    Masters Candidate

    Drury University

    *Arnett, Fritz
    & Bell. Communication Ethics Literacy,
    2009

    • Johnk

      very nicely put Brian. From my experience, Christians (Including myself) are passionate about their beliefs. And atheists are also passionate about theirs. To me, that alone is common ground and a call for mutual respect. 

      Too often, Christians treat atheists as if they are “out to get them” and just as often atheists accuse Christians of “willfull ignorance.” Most Christians, (and I assume atheists as well) authentically believe in their positions. To your point, we each have a bias – let’s assume that both camps are trying their best to be honest with themselves.

      I know several best friends who started their relationships off as enemies, probably because they recognized the same “fight” in the other person.

      • http://twitter.com/phoo Chris Irwin Davis

        Unfortunately, many dialogs in which I’ve attempted to engage, the religious person didn’t see me as a human being with an equivalent degree of philosophical passion – I was Satan incarnate, trying to steal their immortal soul from God. My civility was construed as the devil being clever and deceptive. Not much common ground.

        • Johnk

          if that’s how it was for you, then no – I would have to agree that that is not much common ground. Sorry.

    • Parse

      I’m no lawyer, but my general understanding of how the ACLU works is that they try to resolve it out of court first, and only file a lawsuit if that’s not productive.  After all, lawyers are expensive, and if they can resolve the conflict with just a letter (on ACLU letterhead,) then it’s cheaper for everybody involved.
      However, if I’m mistaken – either in this instance, or in general – then I’d like to know.  

  • Sami Hawkins

    The symbolism of that date represents a challenge to those people who are frustrated and angered by this lawsuit. At the very least, Hudson should be treated with tolerance, regardless of how one feels about this lawsuit and the core issue of public sectarian prayer by elected government officials.

    ‘core issue’? Their’s no issue! Their’s nothing to debate! Any taxpayer funded institution endorsing any sort of religious belief is unconstitutional. Their’s no debate over this, just people who want a theocracy. It’s like claiming their’s a debate over cruel and unusual punishment. theirs no debate, it’s blatantly banned by the constitution no matter how much idiots insist otherwise.

    As for the idea that this prayer would be anymore acceptable if it were a generic deist god, the other commentors are right. It’d still be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. Unfortunately the legal system in this country is dedicated to the charade that ‘ceremonial deism’ is somehow not an endorsement of religion, just look at your money. Maybe someday we’ll have judges and lawyers brave enough to risk their careers by pointing out the simple facts that:

    1. The word ‘God’ is singular and therefore can’t be claimed to also include polytheistic religions with ‘Gods’. That’s just how the english language works.

    2. Ignoring 1 theirs still the simple fact that atheism is a legally recognized religion. *I know ‘bald isn’t a hairstyle, doing nothing isn’t a hobby, etc.’ but legally it’s classified as a religion* Atheists do not believe in any ‘God’, that’s the single tenet of Atheism. ‘In God we trust’ only includes our beliefs by the most absurd stretch of logic.

    But I doubt that will happen anytime soon so for now this women does have legal grounds for wanting an ‘all-inclusive’ prayer, no matter how ludicrous the concept is.

  • Mary

    How in the world is a brief prayer before a government meeting really one of “the most important things in their lives?” If you want to pray before a meeting, get there 5 minutes early and sit in your chair and pray silently. In fact, you can pray in the shower, pray while you’re getting dressed, pray in your car, pray at church, pray with your friends, pray on the street, etc. The only reason to pray out loud with a captive audience is to get attention or to force others to join in your prayer. FORCE. How is that Christian? Please, someone tell me?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Little/565071363 Paul Little

    Matthew 6:5-7

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Byron-Motley/100001212902730 Byron Motley

    Solution that EVERYONE can live with…they make the announcement or have a set time they are going to pray and they tell the person how long it will be, the person goes to bathroom, to cafeteria, go outside to smoke etc and no one disrespects anyone while prayers goes on as planned. 
    Suing to stop prayer not only is divisive, disruptive and disrespectful but sheds the kind of light I THOUGHT atheists were trying to escape from as being seen as only about themselves…mutual respect CURES this!


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