Winchester Citizens United
for Separation of Church & State


Who We Are

Contact Info


Join WCU


Americans United for Separation of Church & State

Americans for Religious Liberty

Restore The Pledge Project


Update on Prayer at Town Meeting
A Thoughtful Compromise ?

In May of 2002 the Daily Times Chronicle (Winchester Edition) Chris Connelly wrote a "Commentary" (PDF Version) in response to the "Open Letter" (PDF Version) distributed at the May 20, 2002 Winchester Town Meeting.  A response to that Commentary appeared in the September 26th issue of the Daily Times Chronicle and may be viewed/downloaded below.

"No Freedom of Religion Without 
Freedom From Government-Promoted Religion"

HTML Version   -    PDF Version

April 2005 Town Meeting - still a moment of reflection but no opening prayer !
April 2006 Town Meeting - still a moment of reflection but called a prayer several times!!
April 2007 Town Meeting - a moment of reflection called a prayer and ends with amen!!
Is Mr. Sullivan slowly going back to an opening prayer????

In 2005 w
e had a thoughtful compromise allowing all to participate.
Our thanks to the Moderator for respecting everyone's First Amendment rights and hope he continues to do so in the future.


Religious Recreation Department Courses

UPDATE: On October 18th 2005 we were notified that these courses have been canceled and will not be offered in the future. We want to thank all of you who took the time to express your opinion in this matter. We also want to thank our Town officials for helping us maintain the strength of the First Amendment and its Establishment Clause.

There where two courses being offered by the Winchester Recreation Department in the Fall 2005 catalog, "Meet Your Guardian Angels" and "Deja You", that crossed the boundary in terms of First Amendment establishment protections and also appropriateness for Town sponsorship.

In the course "Meet Your Guardian Angels" the participants we are told will "...actually identify your angels by name, feel their presence, receive guidance and healing from them, and learn how to work with them on a daily basis..." This crosses the line from "studying about" to practicing a religious ritual. This course assumes specific sectarian beliefs and helps the participants practice them.

In the other course, "Deja You", the participants "...will experience several of your past lives, when and where you lived, what you did...,meet your past-life family members and friends... your soul’s purpose for incarnating in your current life... and release past life energy blocks that will bring healing to you in this life..." This course again crosses appropriateness by assuming sectarian beliefs about reincarnation and helping participants practice them.

We were troubled by the content of these two courses and their sponsorship by the Town. We strongly believe these types of courses should not be taught through the Winchester Recreation Department, a
Town sponsored organization. We assume that there are some standards as to which courses are selected, and even though we appreciate the efforts to offer a wide variety of subjects, we presume there are subjects that would not be considered appropriate. We also presume that this venue is not a totally "open forum" but rather a limited open forum. We see no problem with courses in which the participants "study" ancient philosophies, Halloween superstitions, or even a course such as the history of the Catholic Church or Buddhism.


Religion & Government Functions

“ is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers.” Justice Hugo Black, Majority opinion in Engel vs. Vitale 370 U.S.421(1962) 

“religion & government will both exist in greater purity, the less 
they are mixed together.” James Madison

...and for those who are Christians, please read Matthew 6:5-6

One of our most cherished  core principles, a right granted to every American,  and enshrined in the first amendment is Freedom of Religion.  A freedom that is further protected by the interdiction of governmental establishment, support, or promotion of religion.

We all have the individual right to believe what we want and how we want.  We have the right to pray where and when we want. We have the right to chose whom we want to lead us in prayer. 

However,  no one has the right to impose their religious beliefs or rituals through the power of governmental authority.  Mr. Sullivan, in his role as an elected moderator and government representative, does not have the right to ask and lead the Town Meeting in a "prayer".

In a Supreme Court ruling last year, Santa Fe School District vs. Jane Doe 530 U.S. 290 (2000), Justice Stevens wrote for the majority: "...the delivery of a prayer <at a public event> has the improper effect of coercing those present to participate in an act of religious worship."

Town Meeting Members have the right to pray before, during and after the Town Meeting, under their own motivation and outside their governmental appointments. It is not a question of removing God from the public square but of whether an individual acting as a government functionary has the right to promote his/her own concept of God or beliefs and interject a "religious ceremony" at a secular government function. 

Several arguments have been put forth as to why it is acceptable to have prayers lead by the moderator at town meetings, however, none of them are valid since the bottom line in all cases is that it violates the First Amendment separation of church and state. It is not acceptable for President Bush, the Congress, the Senate, or any other governmental authority to promote or espouse religious content through an official capacity.


- see the Massachusettes AU-MA.ORG or national AU.ORG websites.

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should `make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and State.Thomas Jefferson, Danbury Letter, 1802

Winchester Citizens United
for Separation of Church & State

Last Updated: 5/21/07