Taking Liberties: Town Hall Prayer

Jeffery Dyer walks along the Avenue outside City Hall in Point Pleasant Beach New Jersey.
He’s talking about praying.

“I ask God to bless us that evening and to bless the Council.”

Dyer is a City Council Member, and he says he believes emphatically in the importance of prayer.

In fact, he says, he believes the right to pray is the foundation of the U.S. Constitution. And he doesn’t stop there.

“The reason our forefathers came here,” he said, motioning to the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean, “is because they did not have freedom of religion over in Europe.”

For years Dyer and his fellow Council members have been opening their council meetings with prayer — sometimes The Lord’s Prayer, sometimes something non-denominational.

“We switch between council members and it’s their choice on what prayer to use.”

Dyer says he and the Council have simply been doing what our forefathers did when they came to America, but not everyone sees it that way.

“Politicians,” says Jeanne LoCicero, “shouldn't be endorsing particular religious belief over another.”

LoCicero is from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which is now suing the Town of Point Pleasant Beach.

In fact, in January, LoCicero got a judge to issue a preliminary injunction against the Point Pleasant Beach Council, effectively stopping them from participating in the pre-meeting prayer.

Since then a church group has taken up the cause, and says the Lord’s Prayer during a moment of silence before the meeting starts.

LoCicero says these were not the kind of prayers our forefathers sacrificed for.

“The Bill of Rights and the Constitution protects against the government encroaching on religious beliefs,” she says. “And so this case is really about preventing the government from getting entangled in religion.”

Dyer disagrees.

“Our Founding Fathers said that we as government officials cannot force our religion upon the people,” he said. “By me praying is not forcing my religion on the people.”

Dyer says Point Pleasant Beach cannot afford to oppose the lawsuit, but he says that’s not stopping him. He says he has now set up a fund to continue the fight in court. He says he has both God and the law on his side.

Douglas Kennedy currently serves as a correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1996 and is based in New York.