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Canadian Athiest takes County to Court for using Lord's Prayer
The Toronto Star ^ | Wednesday August 01, 2012 | Katie Daubs

Posted on 08/02/2012 3:21:08 AM PDT by Nav_Chappie

When asked if he is a secularist or an atheist, Peter Ferguson says he is “just a human.”

The architect recently filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in a bid to get his local Grey County council to stop praying and turning council into what he calls a “Christian zone.”

“This has nothing to do with my personal beliefs, other than we must be good to one another,” he said.

Ferguson said he tried for a year and a half “to convince them that what they were doing was hurting the citizens of Grey County and it was breaking the law, and they sat there like bumps on the log.”

At times, the effort was heated. Ferguson confirmed that at one meeting in February, he used the terms “hate mongers,” “despicable” and “criminals” to describe the councillors.

“You can only treat people with kid gloves for so long, eventually you get angry at them,” he said.

The basis for this and similar actions is a 1999 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling against the Town of Penetanguishene that said reciting the Lord’s Prayer violates the Charter rights of non-Christians attending council.

In an affidavit, Ferguson wrote that he does not believe in any god and the prayer breaches his Charter rights “as well the rights of other non-believers, agnostics or atheists, and the followers of non-Christian faiths in Grey County.”

“My distress from this discrimination, exclusion and rejection have reduced my ability to enjoy living and participating in a democratic country and in municipal affairs,” the affidavit states.

He is seeking a stop to the prayers and $5,000 in damages.

Grey County warden Duncan McKinlay says there is no policy permitting or prohibiting prayer, but it’s longstanding tradition.

McKinlay says he met with Ferguson and the issue was debated in a committee, where the recommendation was to not take any action at “that time.”

“It’s not that he’s been stonewalled, there has been no decision made by county council to make any change, to date,” McKinlay says.

Ferguson is being represented by lawyer Daniel Mayo, who often represents applicants as part of his work with Secular Ontario. Ferguson is not a member of Secular Ontario but says the group is helpful.

Secular Ontario president Sheila Ayala says the goal is to have “nothing at all” in place of the prayer, but “if people feel they do need something, a moment of silence would be perfectly acceptable.”

Ayala said her group has written to 28 municipalities asking them to stop praying at council, and only two changed voluntarily. Legal actions have been brought against several communities, including a recent action in Peterborough, which starts its council meetings with the prayer and silent reflection.

Legal counsel for the City of Peterborough noted they will be filing a response in Superior Court in due course.

In Toronto, council begins with a moment of silence. While other councils around the GTA have a similar policy, there is still prayer to be found.

In Oshawa, they go with the Lord’s Prayer or a moment of reflection before council begins. Brampton and Mississauga have stuck with the Lord’s Prayer, Richmond Hill begins with a non-denominational prayer, Oakville does too, and includes a moment of silence. At Durham Regional Council, the Lord’s Prayer is said prior to the meeting being called to order.

Catholic Civil Rights League executive director Joanne McGarry doesn’t think there needs to be controversy.

“The vast majority of believers understand that we have to share the road, and that’s what this should really be about,” she said.

The clash between church and state is a divisive issue, and in Grey County McKinlay says many of the emails he has received from locals say “don’t give an inch,” while one supported Ferguson.

“Their feeling is their ancestors came to Canada, many of them because of being denied to practise their religion in their native lands wherever they were, and they look at it from that way,” he explained.

Ferguson says people he has spoken to have been positive, but he’s received some abusive emails. He hopes council will “see the light” and avoid a legal battle.

McKinlay says council will “be trying to make a decision that is reasonable but also respectful of Grey County’s heritage, and also respectful of cost to the taxpayer.”

A holy trinity, if you will.

TOPICS: Current Events; Other Christian; Prayer
KEYWORDS: atheists; lawsuit; lordsprayer; meetings; prayer

1 posted on 08/02/2012 3:21:19 AM PDT by Nav_Chappie
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To: Nav_Chappie

If there is no “god”, then why is this man threatened by allowing those who do to utter 5 minutes of gibberish?

What difference does it all make to an atheist in the long run?

If the gibberish annoys him why not step out of the room or come to the meeting 5 minutes late? Surely there is no way to stop people from uttering absurdities and gibberish of a non spiritual nature?

And what is a “Christian zone” to an atheist? Does their skin burn or something?

2 posted on 08/02/2012 4:55:25 AM PDT by silverleaf (Every human spent about half an hour as a single cell)
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To: Nav_Chappie

Militant secularism is its own form of religion. Funny how the secularists never seem to attack the Muslims...

3 posted on 08/02/2012 5:03:28 AM PDT by Truth29
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To: Nav_Chappie

Oh look, another atheist zealot who can’t keep his religion to himself.

Reminds me of those guys on the street corner yelling at every car that passes.

Only this guy’s bible is empty, and yours must be too or he will take you to court and sue you.

4 posted on 08/02/2012 6:18:46 AM PDT by chris37 (Heartless.)
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