Atheist's Protest Ends Recitation Of Lord's Prayer In N.J.

January 15, 2009

Author: Joe Moszczynski

Source: Religion News Service

For nearly 60 years, the town council here started its meetings by reciting the Lord's Prayer. Council members felt the passage gave them guidance and inspiration.

That tradition ended recently after the council's attorney advised members they should heed a request by a resident, an avowed atheist, to stop the practice.

Doug Radigan told the council at its Dec. 22 meeting the prayer was too Christian and was offensive to him. He asked for a secular replacement.

Council members said they were saddened -- but not really surprised -- they had to end a tradition begun in 1952.

"It's not a surprise, but I'm disappointed that we had to cave into this or we would've been open to a lawsuit," said longtime Councilwoman Thea Unhoch. "You can't even say `Merry Christmas' anymore."

Radigan did not return calls for comment.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of the Washington-based Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said the number of U.S. communities that use Christian prayers, especially the "highly Christian" Lord's Prayer, at government functions is slowly diminishing.