Christian Right Group: The Economy is the Reason FFRF Stopped an Invocation Prayer

The Christian Right group American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is pissed off that officials from Henrico County, Virginia voted to stop reciting invocation prayers before their meetings.

They know why the FFRF went after the officials, too: Because they were violating the principle of church/state separation of the economy.

Really:

In today’s lagging economy, FFRF knows that these local cities and towns across America don’t have the funds to defend lengthy and costly litigation, and a strongly worded demand letter, no matter how erroneous, can often cause a small municipal body to cave.

That’s how you know the ACLJ has no case. They just make up the first reason that comes to their head, no matter how dumb it is.

FFRF sent a letter of complaint to Henrico County officials because the invocation in question specifically referred to the Christian God (“In Christ’s name we pray”). It’s possible the officials could have gotten away with it if they stuck to generic references to “God,” but even they knew their meeting time couldn’t be used to praise Jesus, Allah, Thor, or whatever other god you worship. So instead of fighting a losing battle, the Board of Supervisors voted to stop the invocations outright before any trouble started.

They made the right decision, and it took nothing away from any of the religious people in the community.

All FFRF was asking for was government neutrality, not special privilege.

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://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    It’s fun here in Richmond.  Twice this morning on one of the local news affilates Facebook thread regarding this decision I was told to “go back to my own country.”   Perplexed…  as I have only ever left the US once for a weeks vacation to Costa Rica. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/thashizknit Autumn Reinhardt Simpson

       Nicole,

      You’re local! Feel free to message me on FB if you’re interested in my brand-new Humanist Book Club. I find that too many of the groups around here meet in far off lands, many  miles away….!

    • Ahythloday

       I finally just posted on the thread to out myself since everyone was blaming Muslims.  I was thinking of being quiet because you’re never sure of the kinds of insane things people will do but then I felt bad when they went after the Muslims.

    • http://www.facebook.com/thashizknit Autumn Reinhardt Simpson

        I finally just posted on the thread to out myself since everyone was
      blaming Muslims.  I was thinking of being quiet because you’re never
      sure of the kinds of insane things people will do but then I felt bad
      when they went after the Muslims.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    Fear of losing their funds in a lawsuit doesn’t seem to stop many religiously-inclined school boards.   The reason for this “capitulation” is most likely the fact that the Board of Supervisors genuinely doesn’t want to p.o.  the non-Xian citizens of Henrico Co., which is pretty diverse.  Click through to the incident which triggered the complaint- an Xian prayer delivered to a room full of Muslims.

    Now, if we could get the non-Xians of VA to stand up to McDonnell and Cuccinelli.

  • MegaZeusThor

    “In Christ’s name we pray” Yeesh. There are entire buildings dedicated to that — they’re called churches. 

    I don’t go to city meetings and run a Roleplaying game just before things start. I might think their fun, but I’m pretty sure I’d be wasting a lot of other people’s time. (Oh they don’t like it? Time to for some unsolicited proselytization.)

    They like special privileges for the stuff they like. (The stuff they happen to be into is belief in the supernatural and some old mythology.) What if the stuff they were into was a deeply held belief that the ninja turtles were real? “…and we know that oh great Donatello, that you too are out there…”

  • 1000 Needles

    On the same webpage, you can see that the ACLJ is fighting against healthcare for the people that need it the most. Typical Christian love for you.

  • 3lemenope

    They are probably actually right to the barest extent in that shrinking municipal budgets due to a bad economy is undoubtedly a factor that weighs more heavily on a decision whether to fight something like this or not; it was certainly a factor, for example, in the Cranston School Board’s not appealing their court loss in the Ahlquist prayer banner case. 

    However, the overriding factor here is simply that they knew they would lose, because the case is clear-cut and their lawyer undoubtedly told them so.

    • Randomfactor

      It was the EXCUSE given for not appealing the court loss in the Ahlquist case.  As you noted, though, the REAL reason was that they’d lose.  If they truly thought they’d have won, it would’ve been an investment, not a cost.

      • 3lemenope

        I think it was a real factor. Compare it, for example, to Lee v. Weisman, (another Rhode Island case) which the school district pushed all the way to the Supreme Court. In the early nineties, municipal budgets had a bit of give to them, and so could afford to throw away money on likely losers. And they often did, just to “make a point”. Santa Fe Independent v. Doe is another example of a district pushing a likely loser case in good economic times. 

        People also tend to forget that these, even in the nineties, ended up being 5-4 cases, and the court’s composition has changed markedly since then. It is not a sure thing at all if someone decided to appeal a similar case to SCOTUS today that it would come out the same way.

    • 1000 Needles

      You’d think that all these municipalities could just pray for their god to change the hearts of the FFRF, or better yet, to snap its fingers and make government-sactioned sectarian prayer suddenly legal. 

  • Steve Ahlquist

    This complaint has come up in Rhode Island several times. In the case of the Cranston Prayer Banner, it was often said that the only reason the ACLU went after Cranston is because the city was too poor to properly defend themselves, even though they wasted tons of money on a case their own legal counsel told them was going to be extremely difficult and costly to fight. Now, in the case of the FFRF’s complaint about a cross on public land in Woonsocket, the same kind of things are being said. It has been seriously suggested that only cities without the funds to defend themselves are being targeted. Of course, explaining to these people that the FFRF had never even heard of Woonsocket before getting a complaint from one their members, a resident of that city, is impossible. Everything is seen as a vast secular humanist/atheist conspiracy.

  • http://twitter.com/ErnestValdemar Ernest Valdemar

    It’s beginning to annoy me that it’s up to Atheists and Humanists to police establishment clause violations. The primary purpose of the establishment clause was never to protect the godless; it was added to the Constitution in order to protect Christians from each other.

    When the Constitution was being drafted, Europe has just started winding down from a period of several centuries of warfare and bloodshed over which flavor of Christianity was the right one. The purpose of the establishment clause was to ensure that that kind of violence wouldn’t destroy the new American republic (cf. the English Civil War). 

    The establishment clause only made it into the final draft of the Constitution because of intensive lobbying by American Baptists, and it could be reasonably argued that the U.S. is the most religious developed nation today because of (and not in spite of) the establishment clause.

    It’s well past time that Christians started pulling their weight on church-state issues. Unless, of course, they’re actually anxious to get back to a situation where the Calvinists and the Catholics are murdering each other wholesale.

    • Peter

      I would be very anxious for that to happen…

  • http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com/ Jonny Scaramanga

    An Ark Museum! What a brilliant idea! They could have a life-size ark, with life-size models of two of every creature, plus models of all the food they would need for a year etc. And visitors could walk around the ark and see how much space there would be. They could see how easily you could fit all those millions of animals and all their poo and food on one boat. It’s a great plan. How can I donate?

    • Isilzha

       I think they intend to torture LIVE animals. :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    I assumed that was the opening line to a plea for donations, like: “That’s why we hope good people like you will open your hearts and send what you can spare today–because we know that you, like us, are outraged when secular atheist humanists twist the meaning of the First Amendment to ban God from the public square.”

    In that context, the spin that it was purely a financial decision would make sense.

  • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Ginx

    So… what they’re saying is… this is a great time to go after public displays of religion because we stand a better chance of winning? Here’s hoping.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

    I couldn’t give a S**T what they say or think & if getting this filth out of the Gov’ is helped due to the poor state of the economy then at least there’s a silver lining to this cloud. When this horrible recession ends they will just have to find another excuse. Personally i can’t wait because the FFRF usually finds a better use for the cash than these religious fanatics do anyway so it’s a win-win as far as i’m concerned.


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