The City of Ardmore, Oklahoma Just Handed FFRF the Keys to a Lawsuit

Don’t you love it when reporters ask someone a “gimme” question and the person misses it completely?

In Ardmore, Oklahoma, all City Commissioners meetings begin with a prayer. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is trying to put a stop to that.

That might be tough since it’s a completely non-denominational prayer, right?

When asked directly, “Do you pray in Jesus’ name?” City manager J.D. Spohn responded, “We always have. Yes, we do.”

Umm… wrong answer.

“They’re praying to Jesus every time, and if that is what’s going on in Ardmore, they are outside the Constitutional bounds and are 100% violating the constitution,” Andrew Seidel, attorney from the Freedom From Religion Foundation asserted.

Watch the video below at the 0:41 mark. Spohn has no idea the reporter’s trying to lob him a softball and he whiffs at it:

Then the mayor chimed in:

Surprise and disbelief is what mayor Bob Geurin felt.

“People from the outside shouldn’t be allowed to tell us what we do in Ardmore, Oklahoma,” he said.

Yes, they can, when you’re breaking the law.

Wait! They’re not the only ones guilty of putting their foot in their mouths:

“The prayer is said for the good of the commission and has been for years,” said vice mayor Sheryl Ellis. She added just because they received the fax [from FFRF], doesn’t mean the commission will immediately stop the prayer before meetings.

This should be an easy victory for FFRF. The city leaders have no idea what they’re doing wrong because they’ve never been challenged before. They’re going to have to change their ways or waste the taxpayers’ money on an unnecessary losing lawsuit.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • ruth

    I’ve been to Ardmore.  It is a tiny little town off of the freeway.  But it is near beautiful Lake Murray State Park.   The town is pretty run down, I can’t imagine it has much of a tax base to finance lawsuits like this.  I’d sure hate to be the lawyer for the town.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=503257844 Adam Evans

      The Lawyer is like: “SHUT UP before this become a bigger mess.”

      • Artor

        Or he’s hoping they’ll go through with it so he can rake in tons of cash before the town is bankrupted.

    • Smithin62

      Umm Ruth, I’m not sure which “tiny little town” named Ardmore that you have visited but it sure isn’t this Ardmore.  We are not at all “run down” and we are a city of about 32,000.  Tiny??

      • Joseph Auclair

        32,000? Yup. Tiny.

  • Fsq

    Take ‘em down.

  • Offlogic

    I hope you can tell us more about this at FreeOK next-next weekend!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    This is a combination of the insular nature of small towns, simple ignorance of the law, and Christian privilege.

    “People from the outside shouldn’t be allowed to tell us what we do in Ardmore, Oklahoma,”

    No, Mr. Mayor, your town cannot be a country in itself. It exists inside a real country, and its Constitutional laws have protected you even though you have either not learned them, or you have chosen to flout them. The law of the land must both protect and limit all of us, or it will protect and limit none of us.

  • Fargofan

     That was painful to see. It’s like watching someone who’s about to step in a dog pile. You say, “Wait! Are you sure you want to set foot there?” and they’re like, “Yup! La la la…”

  • WoodwindsRock

    Hey Bill, I live in Oklahoma, so according to you that means I can tell you to stop.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000948319152 Tommy Spradling

    So what in world does a group in Wisconsin poking around in Lil ol Town of Ardmore, OK traditions in City Hall hope to achieve? A lengthy trial or just settlement to save town money and change ways. Personally I hope they fight it and every penny will be worth it.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      Maybe for people to stop, you know, entangling church and state? (Thanks for being such a great embodiment of what’s wrong with Ardmore.)

    • Cynthia McCain

      why are so many god-drone groups pouring money into washington state to fight the gay marriage referendum?

      • Cynthia McCain

        make that OUT OF STATE god-drone groups. 

      • jdm8

        The same happened with California’s Prop. 8.

        • Fsq

          Mormons account for at best, 3 percent, or the California population. But, Salt Lake City dumped over 20,000,000 dollars into the California Prop. 8. These fuckers have no shame. They hurt my friends and turned a great state upside down.

          You want a theocracy you Kolab seeking retards? Stay the fuck in the desert and out of my state.

    • GZep

       “So what in world does a group in Wisconsin poking around in Lil ol Town of Ardmore, OK traditions in City Hall hope to achieve?”

      They hope to protect the rights of the citizens of Ardmore, regardless of their religious beliefs.

      “A lengthy trial or just settlement to save town money and change ways.”

      I’m quite sure they would be satisfied with a change of ways.

      ” Personally I hope they fight it and every penny will be worth it.”

      And the city of Ardmore will lose, as every other town to fight this battle has. They will still have to change their ways, only this time, they will also have to pay a significant sum of money they are unlikely to have.

    • ruth

      I grew up  in a town like this and I had to keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes a voice from the outside can speak when others fear to speak. 

    • Baby_Raptor

      It’s okay when Christians are breaking laws and common decency to force their views, right? It’s just when something ya’ll disapprove of simply wants to exist that suddenly things are wrong. 

  • Peter White

    I’m sure everyone in Ardmore supports law and order, unless it conflicts with their other beliefs.

    • An Ardmoreite

      Not everybody in Ardmore. Just the City of Ardmore.

  • bobo

    Sigh… my great state of Oklahoma.  When will we ever learn.  We are the 49th in the nation in public education.

    I run across this kind of christian privilege daily.  It’s maddening sometimes.  You hear the same argument over and over.  “Well, just step out of the meeting if you don’t like it.”

    Gets old. 

    • Fsq

      No, step out of the meeting to hold your prayer session, then come back in with the rest of the higher-developed grown-ups.

  • Keulan

    So they’re admitting that the prayer is sectarian in nature. And using an appeal to tradition to support it. Whenever I see an appeal to tradition, I think of this.

    • bobo

      Exactly.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    If they don’t have someone who lives in the town as  a plaintiff the FFRF may have trouble getting standing to sue. 

  • Stev84

    It doesn’t really matter whether they pray “In Jesus’s name” or not. The concept of non-sectarian prayer is  ridiculous legal fiction. In reality, there is no such thing.

  • one true patriot

    This wouldn’t be the first time that the “self righteous” folks from up north, ventured down south to save us from ourselves!

  • one true patriot

    Actually, a good point was made earlier!  Is the “prayer” in question before the meeting is called to order?  It may be debated, that if official government buiness has not begun, then the prayer in question is not being conducted during, or on government time!  The Commision is not functioning as a government body, until the meeting is “called to order”!

    • one true patriot

      Correction:  “Commission”.

  • one true patriot

    Maybe the City Commision should gather “before” each meeting, and pray for Mr. Mehta!

    • one true patriot

      Correction:  “Commission”.

  • one true patriot

    Correction:  “Commission”

  • concerned citizen

    I have lived in the city of Ardmore, Oklahoma over 40 years. THE CITY OF ARDMORE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT THE LEGAL RIGHTS OF THEIR OWN CITIZENS OR ANYONE ELSE’S for that matter unless you are a city employee or very wealthy and influentual. PERIOD.
    I HAVE PERSONALLY WITNESSED down right atrocities perpatrated by every level of the City of Ardmore,from the water dept. to the Ardmore Police Department.
    I witnessed the manager of the water dept. Rudely disrespect a long time patron and down grade her when she requested 24 hours,1 day to extra to pay her notice. The manager “The City of Ardmore patron contacted the city manager. The Mayor. The Mayor HUNG UP ON HER THE CITY OF ARDMORE HAS ITS OWN RULE THEIR WAY OR NO WAY LEGAL OR NOT.
    I HAVE WITNESSED THE CITY OF ARMORE POLICE DEPT. Turn children over to a person who had no legal right or custody order.was not a parent.without contacting child protective services or getting any court order the Ardmore police dept turned these children over to a person who had strangled their mother in front of them and several witnesses. APD JAILED THE MOTHER LET THE OFFENDER GO FREE AND GAVE THE OFFENDER THE TODDLERS.
    I have witnessed city employees breaking city ordinances without recourse of any kind for years.
    Every branch of city government for the City of Ardmore is corrupt and has been corrupt.

  • Joseph Auclair

    Do people in the Bible Belt start every business meeting or other secular activity with a prayer or do they just like to constantly pretend government is something that belongs in a church basement like an Easter pageant or a Christmas singalong?


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