The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law, said today it has agreed to represent the City of Ocala, Florida which faces a federal lawsuit by an atheist organization for its support of a community prayer vigil in response to recent shootings that left young children injured.
The American Humanist Association (AHA) and four individual atheists have taken aim at the City of Ocala because of the decision of Ocala’s Chief of Police to publicly support a community prayer vigil aimed at developing unity and seeking justice in the wake of a spree of shootings that injured several small children in Ocala.
“Rather than concocting a constitutional crisis, these plaintiffs should be applauding the efforts of law enforcement officers to engage with the citizenry to make the community safer for all residents,” said David French, ACLJ Senior Counsel. “The position that government officials working alongside members of the community to restore peace constitute an affront to liberty if prayer makes its way into those efforts is simply not supported by the law.”
The AHA filed its federal lawsuit at the end of November, claiming the City and its officials violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by supporting the community prayer vigil. The ACLJ rejects that assertion noting that numerous court decisions – including by the U.S. Supreme Court – have upheld governmental prayer practices as lawful and constitutional.
The ACLJ will ask the court to dismiss the claims against the City, its Police Department, its Chief of Police, and its Mayor, as the plaintiffs are not entitled to any of the relief they seek, which includes an injunction against the City and monetary damages from the Police Chief and Mayor.