Lawsuit a waste of money

In the Saturday, May 4, edition of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel an article stated that the City of Parkersburg is seeking $9,800 for an insurance deductible to cover the costs of a lawsuit filed against Parkersburg City Council for leading a uniquely Christian, unconstitutional prayer to begin public meetings. Since that time the city council has approved this funding. I’d call that a waste of taxpayer dollars of biblical proportions.

The lawsuit was filed last year in Federal District Court in West Virginia by two Parkersburg residents who frequently attended City Council meetings to interact with their local government. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) decided to represent the plaintiffs after the organization had sent multiple letters over a period of three years to the City of Parkersburg requesting that the city comply with existing law by not allowing City Council to lead the uniquely Christian Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of public meetings.

The lawsuit that set the precedent for the plaintiffs in Parkersburg last year was a case called Lund v. Rowan County, N.C., that was originally filed in 2013. In 2017, The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over both North Carolina and West Virginia, decided in that case that the prayer practice of the Rowan County, N.C., County Commission was unconstitutional because the Commission led the uniquely Christian prayer at the commencement of meetings. The Supreme Court of the United States refused to take this appeals court ruling up on appeal in 2018, which is when the Parkersburg plaintiffs filed suit with FFRF. This is identical to the case now being contested by the City of Parkersburg.

Rowan County was ordered to pay the ACLU, the entity that helped the plaintiff sue in that case, approximately $262,000 in fees. In a similar case that FFRF also led in Chino Valley, Calif., a school board was required to pay FFRF $282,000 in fees. Do we really want to risk this in Parkersburg? I think not. I encourage the residents of Parkersburg to let Parkersburg City Council and the Mayor know that wasting taxpayer money and risking a quarter million dollar legal judgment in an attempt to have a government body promote a particular religion through invocation is the definition of poor leadership and placing personal beliefs over the public good.

Anthony Underwood


President, Mid-Ohio Valley Atheists and Humanists


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