Council decides to keep prayer
March 19, 2010
City council members on Thursday reaffirmed their policy to begin meetings with a prayer.
Members of Atheists of Florida, however, say they will continue to press the council to abandon prayer in favor of a moment of silence. Since January, the group's members and supporters have challenged the council on the issue at the board's regular meetings.
Removing prayer "does not mean you are against prayer," Jason Rodriguez said. "It sends a message that you are for individual freedom. I think that is pretty clear."
Atheists say a prayer before a government meeting violates their rights and is discriminatory because it unfairly singles them out.
"I can either pretend to pray or sit without pretending," said John Kieffer, president of Atheists of Florida. "Either way I am forced to express something against my will."
Supporters say they would be discriminated against if prayer were halted.
Councilman Charlie Miranda cast the lone no vote against six council members' votes in favor of retaining prayers. "I don't have to reaffirm," he said. "I'm not playing these games."
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