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Florida Officials Cleared of Criminal Charges in Prayer Case

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I am relatively new to the world of writing and came to Blogcritics as the author of a diet book focusing mainly on topics that reflect my fitness expertise. In May I decided to branch out into the political arena — what was I thinking? I am not a journalist but firmly believe that the media, magazines, authors of books and articles must have some level of integrity. Writers, who compose articles that are centered on reporting or criticizing people, stories, or issues of the day, should be prudent in their gathering of the facts and the presentation that follows, especially when it is publicly displayed. My articles have had their share of opposition as well as problems with grammar, content, layout, categories, etc. –– something the editors here on Blogcritics can attest to.

That being said, a piece that I wrote back in August here on Blogcritics, “Florida Principal and Athletic Director Face Criminal Charges for Praying", is back in the news this week and is one that I must admit bothered me for weeks after it was posted. In hindsight, it took on a hyperbolic posture, although it arose out of passion and was not done intentionally. The information was accurate but my presentation may have thwarted the reality of what was happening; portraying an assumption that it was entirely the fault of the ACLU that these two men were about to face prison time for praying and surmising that they had the power put them there. As a commenter pointed out, “Christine, your problem is with the Law and the Court, not with the ACLU, which, despite the hyperbolic stance of your article, does not have the power of a branch of government”. In retrospect, it is the “consent order” that should of been the focus of my attack –– an order that the ACLU designed, the accused agreed to, and a Judge put into effect. It was the court (per the request of the ACLU to hold them in contempt for their prayer at a luncheon), which detained these two men’s lives and placed them on the criminal fence.

The ACLU has represented their fair share of “dirt bags” like the one mentioned in my article (NAMBLA) and there are plenty of cases that constitute a direct verbal attack. But as another critic noted, the ACLU has a "record of defending individuals whose rights of religious expression has been violated", including some Christians. By no stretch of the imagination am I implying that I am now a fan of the ACLU and putting them in the “organizations to admire” category. In my opinion, their overall agenda is suspect. What I am attempting to articulate is that with all our freedoms comes responsibility and accountability including free speech, even when we as writers use hyperbole to endorse, condone, or condemn activities and behavior.

Since the beginning of this controversy, Liberty Counsel has represented Frank Lay and Robert Freeman and a hearing took place this past Thursday. Days before, more than 60 members of Congress signed a letter in support of the two school officials and some made speeches on the House floor, including Congressman J. Randy Forbes. In a powerful speech, Forbes warned of the impending consequences if this particular action was allowed to stand, “Make no mistake, there will come a day when the speaker of this house will be hauled into federal court and threatened with jail because she dares to stand at that podium where you stand tonight and ask the chaplain to start our day with the prayer.”

On September 17, 2009 it was estimated that a thousand demonstrators were on the streets of downtown Pensacola throughout the day.  Observers noted that a mixture of groups gathered, including Pace High School students, church members, Christian groups, and others, who at some point arrived on the scene to support these two men. The Federal courtroom in Pensacola, Florida was filled with people supporting Lay and Freeman and the steps of the federal courthouse were jammed with more advocates, anticipating the outcome.

Just after 7:30 p.m. it was announced that U.S. District Judge Margaret C. "Casey" Rodgers cleared Lay and Freeman of criminal contempt charges; a decision that brought about “tears of joy” and cheers that swept throughout the multitude who, despite the rain, waited ten hours for this judgment. Amen.

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About Christine Lakatos

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Christine –

    I grew up Southern Baptist (and was at times Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, and almost Presbyterian)…I understand what drives ‘mainstream Christianity’ very well.

    However, the Church of which I am a member now is not affiliated with those churches. Since we do not celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Halloween (but do celebrate birthdays (we’re not Jehovah’s Witnesses)), we – and especially our children – get a bit of grief for our different belief.

    So when I hear of someone using their position to push their religion on anyone else, I get offended. One good example is the school chorus – my son’s choice was to sing Christmas songs in the school concert…or to accept a lower grade in chorus. He sang…but that’s a choice we shouldn’t have to make. I’ve learned a little bit of what it’s like to walk in the shoes of non-Christians who have to put up with the traditions of (and sometimes persecution by) ‘mainstream Christianity’ in America.

    That’s why I’m a supporter of the American legal tradition of separation of church and state.

  • Glenn, thanks for stopping by. Wow, that is not good about your son….what a stupid teacher. I agree, nobody should push their religion on anyone else. Even Christians!