Coatesville City Council Preaching at Public Meetings

Council President Ray ordered everyone in the room to stand and hold hands. Councilman Kurt Schenk, also a minister, then delivered a Christian prayer.

Attorneys/Firms: Mary Catherine Roper, ACLU

The Council drew public attention at its February 12, 2007 meeting, when Council President Ray, a minister, ordered everyone in the room to stand and hold hands. Councilman Kurt Schenk, also a minister, then delivered a Christian prayer.

The Freethought Society's president, Margaret Downey, asked Ray and Schenk in a February letter to apologize for the prayer. Ms. Downey also asked that City Council adopt a neutral policy on religion. Despite the request, the City Council opened the next meeting on February 26 with The Lord's Prayer, and Schenk and Ray refused to apologize, stating instead that they would continue to witness for their faith from the Council podium.

The ACLU then joined the Freethought Society in demanding an end to sectarian prayers at Council meetings. On March 12, 2007, the Council adopteda newpolicy by unanimous vote that stated it would no longer allow invocations that proselytize or advance any faith, or show any purposeful preference of one religious view to the exclusion of others. The policy also states that the Council "recognizes its constitutional duty to … amend its policies and ordinances to comply with constitutional requirements".

Related Materials

WebSanity Top Secret