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Wilmington, NC City Council Asked To Stop Unconstitutional Sectarian Prayers

Wilmington, NC City Council Asked To Stop Unconstitutional Sectarian Prayers

For Immediate Release

Contact:
William J. Burgess, 202-238-9088, bburgess@americanhumanist.org
Brian Magee, 202-238-9088, mobile: (202) 681-2425, bmagee@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, DC – July 13, 2012) – The American Humanist Association is asking the Wilmington, NC city council to stop holding sectarian prayers during public meetings because it is a violation of the separation of church and state. The prayers have frequently been expressly Christian in nature.

The AHA’s legal department, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, sent a letter on July 11, 2012 to the Wilmington City Council pointing out why including of exclusive sectarian prayers during council meetings is unconstitutional and must cease. The letter includes details about the legal decisions that clearly make the practice unconstitutional, asking the council to realize that “all city residents deserve to feel welcome when interacting with their government. Beginning public meetings with divisive prayers produces the opposite effect, corroding the broad civic engagement that is fundamental to the proper functioning of our secular and democratic form of government.”

“Sectarian prayers before public governmental meetings are unconstitutional because it amounts to an official endorsement of the particular religion that the prayers reflect,” wrote Appignani Legal Center Director William J. Burgess in his letter. “The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has been very clear in its cases interpreting the Establishment Clause in this area.”

“The Wilmington City Council should create an environment where everyone is welcome,” said American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “By continuing to include prayers that openly endorse a single religion, the council is telling Wilmington citizens outside that faith that they are unwelcome.”

A copy of the letter can be found online here: http://humanistlegalcenter.org/main/legal-center-opposes-wilmington-n-c-city-council-prayers/

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The American Humanist Association (www.AmericanHumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, its work is extended through more than 140 local chapters and affiliates across America.  Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center (humanistlegalcenter.org) is a project of the American Humanist Association that provides legal assistance to defend the constitutional rights of secular Americans by challenging violations of the separation of church and state guaranteed by the Establishment Clause and seeking equal rights for humanists, atheists and other freethinkers.

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