Virginia Pastor Sues for Right to Pray Christianly at Council Meetings
By Allie Martin – May 31, 2006
(AgapePress) – The director of the Christian Defense Coalition says one Virginia pastor should be commended for standing up for his free-speech rights after being told how to pray at public meetings of the local city council.
Hashmeal Turner, a pastor in Fredericksburg, Virginia, was on a rotating list of clergy who were called on to open the city council’s meetings with prayer. Before he was scheduled to pray, however, officials told him he could not pray in the name of Jesus or mention the name of Christ during the invocation.
Turner has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, claiming that his First Amendment rights are being violated. Rev. Patrick Mahoney is director of the Christian Defense Coalition, a conservative, pro-family advocacy group that has been vocal in commending the minister and supporting his stance.
“Our position is this: no governmental body, no civil authority, should tell any American citizen how they are to pray,” Mahoney asserts. “That should be left up to their own conscience, to the dictates of their faith tradition and the practices of their faith,” he says.
The Fredericksburg officials who required Pastor Turner to restrict his prayers were overstepping their authority, as far as the Coalition spokesman is concerned. He says government entities have no business trying to dictate how people should pray.
“We would all be appalled and up in arms if a city council or a legislative body or a governmental body told American citizens [they] had to pray in the name of Allah,” Mahoney contends. “Yet, by telling citizens to pray nonsectarian prayers, [these government officials] in essence are ordering and determining how people are to pray.”
If Hashmeal Turner wins his case, Mahoney believes this will make it easier for Christians to express their faith in the public arena. The Christian Defense Coalition leader has organized rallies in the Fredericksburg area in support of the pastor and his fight for free speech and religious freedom.
By Allie Martin, AgapePress – Copyright, 2006. All Rights Reserved.