Here is the letter I sent via email to the Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington. I received no reply to the email.
The Board has had 1 meeting since then. The Rules of the Board were not discussed.
I also tweeted the letter. I did kind of get 2 replies.
Freeholder Belgard sent a reply tweet. I was pleased that she took the time to read the letter, however I would have really appreciated a response to the subject matter. “Thank you” doesn’t really tell me if she agrees or disagrees or any of the reasons why.
I also got a reply from Ryan Peters. He is not currently a Freeholder, but is running for the position this year. He sent me a Direct Message with his email address so we could discuss further. That started out productively. Here is the transcript of our email exchange:
Thanks for getting back to regarding my letter to the Freeholders. I know you’re in a bit of a different situation than the others since you currently do not hold office. But since you are seeking the position I figured it made sense to reach out to you anyway.
I have never had the opportunity to attend a Freeholder meeting in person. It’s difficult since they take place during the work day. Recently I found that the meetings are recorded and posted to YouTube. It seemed like a convenient alternative. I was immediately surprised to see the prayer as part of the meeting. I viewed some of the older meetings and they all started the same way.
So what are your thoughts on this…do you agree that it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? If elected, would you push for prayer to be removed from the Rules of the Board?
Thank you for your email. I read your letter to the Freeholders and spent some time researching the issue. I would like to get your thoughts on what I have uncovered so far.
On May 5, 2014 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 decision that a town’s practice of opening its town board meetings with a prayer offered by members of the clergy does not violate the Establishment Clause when the practice is consistent with the tradition long followed by Congress and state legislatures. The town does not discriminate against minority faiths in determining who may offer a prayer, and the prayer does not coerce participate with non-adherents.
The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway. I’ve attached the Majority Opinion including the Dissenting Opinions of Justice Breyer and Justice Kagan for your review.
I am aware of the Greece ruling. Unfortunately I think the Supreme Court made a mistake. I’ll go short of saying they are an “activist court” or “legislating from the bench” in this case, but simply state I don’t believe the Supreme Court is infallible. Their interpretation of the First Amendment in this case was wrong.
So, yes, the Freeholders are allowed to have prayer at their meetings. But just because they can, should they? This Board exists to govern on civic, secular matters. Why is divine guidance needed? Does the prayer add any value to the meeting? Would the responsibility of the Freeholders or the accomplishments of the Board have changed had they not prayed before each meeting? I trust that each member would take their obligation just as seriously.
…and then no additional reply. So as with Freeholder Belgard, I was pleased that he took the time to read the letter and invited me to email him. However all I got was a history lesson. I don’t know what his thoughts on the matter are. (Unless quoting Greece to me is his way of saying he agrees with whatever the law is. Seems irresponsible for me to assume that.)
So as far as I can tell I am at a stopping point unless I choose to pursue further. That would be some kind of public letter through a newspaper or something. (Though anyone can read it, I don’t consider my tweet public. My 20-or-so followers don’t care about the letter. The tweet was only an alternate way to directly try to reach the Freeholders since email didn’t work.) Otherwise I could try to speak during the public comments at one of the meetings. But as I mentioned in my email to Mr. Peters, the timing of the meetings aren’t really conducive for me to attend. So I’m not sure what the next step is. But I do know I continue to be confused as to why there is prayer at these meetings.