National organization objects to Cape council's opening prayer
CAPE CORAL, Fla. - In 2010, the Freedom From Religion Foundation fought to prevent the Ten Commandments from being displayed at city hall. This time, it's taking issue with what they call Christian-themed prayer at council meetings.
"I'm offended," said Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan.
In august, the letter came by fax.
"I decided not to answer it," added Sullivan.
Then, last week by mail.
"I'm not going to allow them to waste my time," Sullivan explained.
The national group has a gripe with Sullivan. Members say he shouldn't allow prayer before council meetings.
"From whom did you receive the complaint in Cape Coral?" asked Fox 4 reporter Gabrielle Sarann to Patrick Elliot, an attorney representing the organization. "I'm not going to disclose the identity of the person but we received, you know, it was a local person who had encountered the prayers," he replied.
The group has about 850 members across Florida. It claims a Cape resident felt uncomfortable with prayers ending in Jesus' name.
"That's fine they can object to anything they want, it's within their constitutional rights," responded Sullivan. "But I'm not going to let 850 people determine what we do at a council meeting."
Sullivan says Jesus' name is not mentioned and that all prayers are non-denominational. He showed Fox 4 a copy of the invocation to prove it.
But Elliott suggests, "I think it would be best for them to remove the prayer altogether. Members can pray on their own time not on taxpayer time."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation claims the city's prayers violate the First Amendment.
"When a government affiliates itself with a religion, that violates the Constitution," explained Elliott.
But the mayor counters if anyone has a problem, they're welcome to bring it before city leaders.
"At least i won't stand still for it," concluded Sullivan. "It's up to the council. If they want to change it, then they go ahead with a majority vote. That's fine."
Elliot says it's troubling Sullivan plans to ignore the group's request. But he'll continue to monitor the situation. As for Sullivan, he says he has more pressing issues to tend to.