EXCLUSIVE: Atheist Group Calls For Elimination Of Prayer At Madison County Commission

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Stop praying, and the sooner the better. That's the message an out-of-state atheist group is sending to one local county commission, which plans on ignoring the request.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a pair of letters to Madison County Chairman Dale Strong earlier this month, urging him to eliminate opening prayers at the commission meetings. The group's second letter to Strong requested that he drop a reference to a Bible verse on his official public biography. But the first-term chairman says the prayers and Bible verse aren't going anywhere.

"I promise you this right here, I will not compromise myself, and I believe our commission is on solid ground in what we're doing," said Strong, who instituted the opening prayers after he took over the chairman's seat last year. "They [FFRF] are going throughout the Southeast United States, threatening every governmental body, saying we can't have a belief...We anticipate at some point they will file a lawsuit just as they have done in many other places. At the time they file the lawsuit we'll address it, but right now it's propaganda."

FFRF's letters called the Commission's prayer practice "unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive." Neither letter directly threatened legal action, but it did note that public prayer continues to be litigated across the United States. The group did threaten to sue Huntsville City Council last year over their opening prayer practice, which continues to remain in effect.

The bible verse reference on Chairman Strong's bio page reads: "I would also like to thank the other members of the Commission for their sincere willingness to work as a team and make compromise for the betterment of all Madison County. The best is yet to come! Joshua 1:9".

Freedom From Religion Foundation spokesman Andrew Seidel said a Madison County resident filed a complaint with his office, but declined to say who.

"The government is using their official power to espouse their particular religious beliefs, and that is something that the government is prohibited from doing."