Pismo Beach settles prayer suit
April 17, 2014
The Pismo Beach City Council agreed Tuesday to stop having prayer before meetings and to pay legal fees and damages of about $47,502 to settle a lawsuit filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF).
On Nov. 1, FFRF and Dr. Sari Dworkin, a Pismo Beach resident and FFRF member, sued the city claiming the official prayers and chaplaincy violated the California Constitution. In the past, council meetings followed city chaplain Paul Jones, or one of his religious substitutes, speaking a Christian prayer. According to the suit, Jones’ prayers pressured citizens to live a Christian or biblical lifestyle, to vote for “righteous” leaders and to make decisions that “honor” his God.
“This is a significant victory to keep all prayer — sectarian or nonsectarian — out of Pismo Beach public meetings,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Pismo Beach officials said the city denies liability, but decided to settle rather than use public funds to fight the suit.
Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on the issue of sectarian prayer in the Town of Greece v. Galloway, a New York case. Regardless of the outcome, Pismo Beach’s settlement will stand.