At what cost?

In 2015, Parkersburg City Council was notified by the Freedom From Religion Foundation the PCC was unconstitutional (illegal) in conducting prayer connected to the PCC’s meetings. Yet, the illegal behavior continued. After the 2016 election and a different administration, political party in power as well as a new city council, the same behavior continued. So again in 2018 PCC was notified of its continued illegal behavior and that PCC should cease such behavior.

Wouldn’t Parkersburg taxpayers reasonably assume PCC would consult with their attorney regarding research into similar cases and rulings to understand why such notification was made, let alone the rulings in such cases? Is PCC ignoring its own legal advice?

Recently, PCC decided to spend $9,800 (insurance deductible) to fight to defend this illegal behavior. How far will PCC fight this case and at what cost? Will PCC appeal a loss costing the taxpayers even more money?

So why would an organization like FFRF (a 40-year-old national watchdog group of legal specialists in separation of church and state issues) inform PCC it is behaving illegally? One could quickly assume it is 40 years of specialization in such cases — knowing it when they see it. But perhaps it is the 2017 Rowan County, N.C., County Commission’s loss of a nearly identical case involving prayer connected to the NCRCC. This loss led to an appeal and a second loss. As a result of these losses, Rowan County taxpayers have to pay the $200,000-plus attorney fees.

Remember, Parkersburg residents, West Virginia and North Carolina are in the same court district, the U.S. 4th District Court of Appeals. The cases are nearly identical.

The latest? One PCC member stated they were “appalled” that the May 28 PCC meeting didn’t start with prayer (an oversight), “as it had for the last 30 years.”

So, Parkersburg, are you appalled that your city is spending $9,800 to fight to defend illegal behavior? How about hundreds of thousands of dollars to continue a losing illegal fight?

Steve Dean


Mid-Ohio Valley Atheists and Humanists