On June 13, 2013, I addressed Wilkes-Barre City Council during the public comment section of a council meeting – objecting to government-led prayer and urging council to remove prayer from government meetings [video]. I detailed why I object to governmental prayer in a follow-up written piece, was since featured in local media, and was most recently backed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) who joined me in my dispute with Wilkes-Barre City Council.
Local news station WNEP-TV 16 featured my objection to council prayer on June 13 and June 14 newscasts which were accompanied by a June 14 WNEP-TV 16 online article. A local newspaper, The Times Leader, mentioned my prayer objection in a June 13 article and I appeared on a local news talkradio program on June 14. Al Stefanelli, writing for Syndicated News Services, wrote about my objection to council prayer on June 14. A June 17 segment of Talkback 16 on WNEP-TV 16 — including some upset callers — also mentioned my objection to council prayer.
The FFRF sent a letter to Wilkes-Barre City Council on June 27, 2013 — the start of my trip to Dublin in which I reported on the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference — via postal mail and e-mail. I am now ready to release this letter [following my migration to www.justinvacula.com] and continue my activism — with the help of the FFRF — objecting to council prayer in Wilkes-Barre.
FFRF’s three-page letter argues that government prayers are exclusionary, unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive while noting that council members may pray on their own time rather than during public meetings in which they lend power and prestige to religion in a governmental endorsement which excludes 19% of a nonreligious American population.
FFRF also states that “[t]he state of the law regarding the constitutionality of government-sponsored prayers is unstable,” affirms the secular character and founding of the United States, and notes Jesus’ exaltation — during his Sermon on the Mount address — “do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. … when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father who is unseen” (Matthew 6:5-6).
The letter’s final paragraph reads,
“The solution is simple: discontinue official, government prayers at your meetings. We urge you to concentrate on civil matters and leave religion to the private conscience of each individual. If government meetings must show reverence, let it be for our secular and godless Constitution, which enshrines the greatest American invention — the separation of state and church.”
I will once again address council in its next open meeting including public comment on July 11, 2013. I hope to see local residents at this meeting and encourage them, like me, to prepare five-minute remarks addressing council whether they defiantly continue prayer or remove it from the sessions.
Read the FFRF letter sent to Wilkes-Barre City Council:
Watch my June 13, 2013 address to council which began this saga of activism:
Please support the FFRF by donating, becoming a paid member which includes a yearly subscription to Freethought Today and many other great perks, or requesting an introductory packet which includes a preview issue of their newspaper Freethought Today. The FFRF does amazing work throughout the United States well-beyond Pennsylvania and will continue its efforts through your donations and support.
As always, feel free to comment below.