For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
March 25, 2014
National secular advocacy group the Center for Inquiry called upon the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office of Vero Beach, Florida to cease its sponsorship of a Christian prayer breakfast, an event the Sheriff’s Office endorsed and provided state-funded printing services at no charge, clearly violating the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the religious freedom provisions of the Florida Constitution.
The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office is listed as a sponsor on the website for the Vero Beach Prayer Breakfast, where the purpose of the event is stated to be “to seek the Lord’s direction and guidance and to recognize our privileges and responsibilities before God.” The Center for Inquiry (CFI) has been informed that in lieu of paying cash for a sponsorship, the Sheriff’s Office used County Jail inmates to print brochures for the event, free of charge.
In a letter to Sheriff Deryl Loar, CFI legal director Nicholas Little asked that the Sheriff’s Department consider the overtly sectarian nature of the Prayer Breakfast, that they “immediately cease to act as a named sponsor” of the event, and that they refrain from any further in-kind donations. Little points out that support of the Prayer Breakfast with government resources violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as the Florida Constitution, which clearly states, “No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”
“That the Sheriff’s Office did not write a check to the Prayer Breakfast is not relevant, wrote Little. “The state and its representatives, including Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, may no more provide free printing to a sectarian prayer meeting than it may provide free teachers, paid for by the public purse, to a local Roman Catholic Grade School, or provide free electricity to the local Mosque or Synagogue.”
The complete letter to Sheriff Loar is available at http://bit.ly/CFI_IndianRiver
CFI, through its affiliate, the Council for Secular Humanism, is challenging another instance of the violation of church-state separation in the case of Council for Secular Humanism v. Crews, which challenges the legality of Florida statutes authorizing payments to two faith-based organizations, Prisoners of Christ, Inc. and Lamb of God Ministries, Inc., for services provided to the Florida Department of Corrections. More information on this case is available here: http://bit.ly/CFI_mcdonough
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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.