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ACLU Newswire: 04-23-99 -- ACLU Says itís OK to Pray

April 23, 1999 -- ACLU Says itís OK to Pray


GILBERT, AZ -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has no problems with a National Day of Prayer ceremony organized around Gilbert's municipal flagpole by longtime resident Howard Morrison, the Arizona Republic reported today.

The issue arose as the ACLU prepared for a June court battle against Mayor Cynthia Dunham over her November 1998 "Bible Week" proclamation and accusations that she was violating the Constitutional principle mandating separation of church and state.

Eleanor Eisenberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona, told the Republic that there's a big difference between a government leader's endorsement of a religious document and residents exercising their rights to free speech on town property.

Because Morrison is not a municipal official or employee, what he is organizing represents a form of free speech and expression, Eisenberg said.

"Had he asked the town for permission to pray on town property and they refused, we'd probably represent him," she said.

Morrison, a member of a pioneer Gilbert family and a large landowner, told the paper he got permission from the town clerk to stage the prayer event in front of the building and around the flagpole.

In November 1998, the ACLU filed two separate suits in federal court against the Governor of Arizona and Mayor Dunham concerning their respective proclamations of Bible Week. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of both Christians and non-Christians, alleged that the proclamations were a government promotion of religion, in violation of the state and federal Constitutions. The Governor has since dropped her proclamation.

Read the release at /news/1999/n030199d.html

Source: The Arizona Republic, April 23, 1999

Copyright 1999, The American Civil Liberties Union

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