United for Separation of Church & State
for Religious Liberty
The Pledge Project
on Prayer at Town Meeting
Thoughtful Compromise ?
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.
Freedom of Religion Without
Freedom From Government-Promoted
April 2005 Town Meeting - still a moment of reflection but
no opening prayer !
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 we
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.
Recreation Department Courses
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.
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
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 souls 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
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.
& Government Functions
is no part of the business of government to compose
Justice Hugo Black, Majority opinion in Engel
vs. Vitale 370 U.S.421(1962)
& government will both exist in greater purity,
they are mixed together.” James Madison
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
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.
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
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."
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
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.
& NATIONAL ISSUES
- see the Massachusettes AU-MA.ORG or
national AU.ORG websites.
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,