Hamilton Co. Commission faces federal lawsuit over public prayer - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Hamilton Co. Commission faces federal lawsuit over public prayers

HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Hamilton County Commissioners and the County Attorney are facing a federal lawsuit. It all centers around the issue of commissioners praying during public commission meetings.

A six page lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court.

"They made it clear they're not going to stop. And we're going to make them," says Thomas Coleman.

Coleman says it is just not right that the Hamilton County Commission opens its meetings with prayer.

He has been before the commission before asking it to stop.

"We felt a reasonable alternative was to have a moment of silence instead," he says.

In May, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the commission a letter saying including the phrase 'in Jesus' name' promotes religion.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry told Channel 3 in a previous interview,"Until we're told otherwise that we're in violation, we will continue to pray."

"The government is to have freedom from religion. We don't need a religious government. That's what they have in the Middle East. That's what they've had throughout time in other eras and it's never played out too well," says Coleman.

Both Coleman and another Hamilton County resident, Brandon Jones, filed their complaint through their attorney, Robin Flores.

The lawsuit names all nine commissions and County Attorney Rheubin Taylor as defendants.

"These particular plaintiffs have made attempts to handle things out of court. And apparently, that didn't work," says Flores.

Flores says prayer during a public meeting is a clear violation of the rights guaranteed by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

"Religion doesn't have any place in running government. You know, if it's public prayer, then what next?"

It is a topic that draws mixed opinions from Channel 3 viewers, with one writing on our Facebook page, "This 'suing because I'm offended' is getting out of hand."

Another view writes, "Pray at home or church. No reason to pray at a commission meeting."

"It's not a vendetta. It's kind of a, 'Hey. We're citizens. We have an opportunity to do something that's right and support the Constitution, something we know our founding fathers would be proud of. That's what we're doing," says Coleman.

Coleman says he will hold a rally outside next week's commission meeting, to send the message he is not backing down.

Commissioners say they could not comment because it is now a legal matter. County Attorney Taylor did not return our calls for comment.

Count on us to follow this story.

Powered by Frankly