Did City Violate Establishment Clause On Day of Prayer? | News

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Did City Violate Establishment Clause On Day of Prayer?
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- While organizers and participants of the National Day of Prayer were praying for peace in the city, trouble was brewing.

"This is the first time I've ever had a mayor participate in the national day of prayer," said Pastor Ted Corley.

Corley has hosted the event for the past 14 years in the Jacksonville city council chambers. He said it being there does not violate the establishment clause. Corley said he pays the cost of a bond, not the city.

"The city has nothing to do with this. They allow us to use the facility like they would anyone," said Pastor Corley.

Council President Stephen Joost, who was in the audience, said the event has been vetted.

"I did ask the city attorneys to review and they said it was okay," said Joost. 

But this year the event was slightly different. Mayor Alvin Brown, as well as Sheriff John Rutherford, two elected officials, played a role in the day of prayer.

Benetta Standly, director of the ACLU's Northeast Region, said that is a problem.

"State Actors, meaning government officials, must remain neutral in matters of religion," said Standly, "because it sends a message that they're endorsing one religion over another religion or over a non-religion."

Mayor Brown said he is a man of faith and he has been transparent. The mayor said the event is to bridge gaps and build a better community.

"As people of faith, it builds stronger community, it speaks to what we can do as we work together," he said.

The ACLU has monitored the event in the past, but was not there this year. ACLU director Standly said they will review what transpired and remind the organizers that the establishment clause is clear.

"We will monitor and see if it is necessary for us to take some kind of action," she said.

Standly said they are already looking into how the city council does its invocations at the start of each meeting. She said the 'establishment clause' is clear and needs to be followed.

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