Prayer Debate in Lady Lake

Originally Published: FOX 35 News – 19 Apr 2011, 2:32 PM EDT

LADY LAKE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – Town commissioners and residents in Lady Lake pray before each meeting. But, Bill Calhoun, a resident in the town and a member of the planning and zoning board, has been fighting it for years.

“Most of the prayers here are Christian’s, and for most of us who are not Christian, that’s not something we should be exposed to,” said Calhoun at a meeting Monday evening.

The topic was a big deal on Monday’s agenda – hundreds in the community turned out, several with signs like ‘in god we trust.’

Calhoun said the only prayer that’s practiced at the meetings, which are held bi-weekly, is that of Christian faith and that’s unconstitutional.

Town Attorney Derek Schroth insists that’s not the case.

“These kinds of prayers are permitted as long as you don’t exclude other faiths, which our town does not do,” said Schroth.

The prayer which kicks off every meeting has been the trend for decades.

Most people that turned out at the meeting Monday want it to stay that way.

“We have people that want to stop our traditional way of life, and we’re here to say no, let’s keep America the way it is,” said Dan Webber, a lady lake resident and president of AMAC.

Those that took the podium in favor of keeping the public prayer said just because Calhoun feels offended, that doesn’t make him right.

Calhoun proposed a moment of silence before each meeting, instead of a prayer.

“We should have a moment of silence this way anyone in the audience, across the board, can do what they chose,” said Calhoun.

“They can pray, do whatever they want, but it should not be aimed at a specific religion.”

Town commissioners said so far the prayer debate cost them and the taxpayers about $3,000. They voted to continue conducting the prayer before every meeting. Calhoun, who has a big support group in Washington D.C., says he’s not giving up – the town will hear from his attorney.

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Steve O
9 years ago

And all this flap has what to do with retired people? It seems to me that if Amac is truely interested in keeping its core competency focused on retired peple it should attempt to do that.

9 years ago

After trying to figure out the point Fred was trying to get across in his latest message, I admit I am guilty of being a Christian and holding to Christian beliefs; that being the truth stated in God’s Holy Bible. That being said, I am sure AMAC has many “non-Christian” members whom still believe in the values our nation was founded upon, one of which is freedom of speech. Your freedom as well Fred. You say AMAC’s work is right, and I believe it as well, otherwise I wouldn’t have become a member. You say you are a man of deep abiding faith – faith in what – yourself. Mine lies with my GOD. And guess what Fred, this AMAC site is showing both your response as well as mine. That’s being fair and open minded on their part. So whom is your beef against – AMAC or the true Christians of this nation who do love their neighbors as themselves, and, – who obviously love their country enough to try to do something about it.

9 years ago

Any costs incurred by Lady Lake as a result of this should be reimbursed by Calhoun.
Once he’s done so, I hope he’ll find another way to get attention. Maybe by moving to a country where no prayer is allowed.

9 years ago

I’m sure that many right minded readers here are noticing that both Nancy and Linda are making my point, which is that under the guise of “religious liberty” there are ongoing attempts at dominance and bullying by a small group of insensitive religious zealots (unfortunately, at least in Nancy’s case an apparent Christian). Nobody is denying anybody’s right to voice their opinions, especially not about our beautiful Christian message. However, clearly, this small minority doesn’t understand that they are advocating intruding and imposing themselves on people who are attending a function, often because they must, but always because they can as free Americans, for a purpose other than to fulfill the personal religious needs of others (like, obviously, Linda and Nancy). The message is simply, keep your religion where it belongs, as do I. And Linda, you can blab about history, but I suggest that YOU actually check it out and follow your own reading list (and be sure to add Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson for good measure) … you simply don’t know what you’re talking about regarding the beliefs AND CONCERNS of our founding fathers and documents, particularly about potential religious bullying by your likes. Christians are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves, and your selfish insensitivity to your neighbors should have you wondering about your faithfulness. Finally, I am a staunch advocate for a complete change in our Executive Branch in Washington (that’s the Obama Administration) and it’s sad that a handful of you are distracting AMAC from fully pressing forward with that challenge. It’s too bad that AMAC has included your irrelevant issue in its agenda which will keep many who aren’t spending time, communicating as am I, to stay away. AMAC … get this stuff (and I’m sure there are other irrelevant issues) off your agenda and you will likely find a swelling of your ranks with the many of us who will then gladly join, and that you will lose very few of the Linda’ and Nancy’s because the rest of AMAC’s work, as an AARP alternative, is right.

9 years ago

God bless you Linda. I couldn’t have said it better of Fred. Both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are much better off without him. Dear Fred – Christians have the right to voice their opinion too. Whatever the outcome, I will always believe that God is in control. I joined AMAC because AARP helps support President Obama and well – We can see he has done nothing but run our country into the ground. It’s his way or no way. So who’s the self-righteous, un-American emotionally pumped hypocrite.

9 years ago

Good riddance Fred, AMAC does not need you. Your sounding pretty self-righteous. Our forefathers began their meetings with prayer. I suggest you don’t know your history of our founding fathers. Perhaps you may be enlightened by reading the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

9 years ago

I was about to join AMAC when I noticed that it is supporting the insensitive Christian right’s insistence on pushing religion (it’s religion) into places where many people end up feeling at least a tad excluded, and often worse. I am a man of deep and abiding faith and great community involvement, and practice daily prayer and more, but I do that where it belongs, in my home, in my congregation, with my family and friends who feel likewise and in my mind and heart. There is no good reason to have prayer in schools, in government, in general public gatherings, in AMAC or anywhere beyond where I practice it. Many of the self-righteous, intellectually limited, emotionally pumped hypocrites who are fuming in this discussion even give as a reason to pray publicly that perhaps with exposure to the non-believer will understand the importance of faith. They also distort American history, and even if correct, all should be concerned about what’s next: Go back to inequality of women? blacks? etc.? I am sure that all of these would be offended if they were faced with “required” ALL Muslim or Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist or Shinto or whatever prayer other than Christian. I am disappointed that whether legal or not (and I believe that the courts will strike down what Lady Lake is doing) that so many “righteous” people are un-American to the point of abject INSENSITIVITY to their fellow Americans’ religious diversity and need for privacy about their religion or non-religion. I am also a retired military veteran (35 years’ service on YOUR behalves fighting for the inclusiveness of all of my countrywomen and countrymen) who has resigned from both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars because they, too, are unnecessarily involved in the area of religion that has NOTHING to do with their true missions. They overstep when they get involved and righteous about religion and weaken their important causes and so, apparently, does AMAC. You will find that I will NOT join unless it dissociates itself from any religious issues other than reminding all good Americans that they should keep their religious private and be totally sensitive to their fellow Americans need for religious privacy. I will also advise the perhaps thousands of people I know (especially with social media abounding) to beware of AMAC’s un-American agenda.

9 years ago

To quote the article, “…Calhoun said the only prayer that’s practiced at the meetings, which are held bi-weekly, is that of Christian faith and that’s unconstitutional…” There is NO Constitutional mandate regarding the so-called “separation of church and state” except this: “CONGRESS shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion NOR PROHIBITING the free exercise thereof…”. The ONLY segment of our government specifically RESTRICTED from establishing a religion is the UNITED STATES CONGRESS because THEY are the branch that MAKES our laws. There is NO law in ANY state that I am aware of that has the legal power to force a “separation of church and state” upon our population. This nation was founded on CHRISTIANITY. If Calhoun is offended by Christian prayers, I suggest he wear ear plugs to the meetings or just stay at home. I have a feeling that other participants would not miss him.

9 years ago


Nancy Ackley
9 years ago

If Mr. Calhoun has such a dislike of God and prayer before each meeting, why has he remained a member of the planning and zoning board for so many years. Why doesn’t he just resign. He could move to Washington with his support group who, by the way, have the God given freedom to hold their “moment of silence” at their own meeting, while they discuss other Christian people and organizations they want to silence. Mr. Calhoun will not be asked to stop what he and his supporters wish to speak out against. And thank you Mr. Webber for standing firm about keeping prayer at your meetings. God bless you.

John Carter, USN (RET)
9 years ago

Seems like the minority (Athiests/Secularists) are the ruling majority these days.

Adam F. Kohler
9 years ago

Find Mr. Calhoun another place to live

B Burtch
9 years ago

I wonder how he fells about” In God We Trust Printed all over his money?? He wants his 15 minutes and I say he got it. Another thought, how about everyone join in to not speak to this idiot, lets see if he thinks silence is golden.

John Hanebury
9 years ago

Dear Mr Calhoun,
I am sure that I don’t have to remind you that this country was in fact established on Judeo-Christian principles. Our founding fathers relied on prayers to our creator at the beginning of their congressional sessions and still do so to this day. Today’s Congressional session was opened with a prayer from Reverend Patrick J. Conroy. Over the years these prayers have been addressed to Lord, All Mighty God of the Universe, God, and yes even Jesus Christ. Many of our government/public buildings have been adorned with words expressing these Judeo- Christian values. The United States Supreme Court building in Washington DC has the Ten Commandments inscrbed high above the main chamber. The Washington Monument has “Praise Be To God” inscribed in latin at its very top and bible verses throughout its stairwells. Our very money has “In God We Trust” on every piece of it! God —-that is the God of the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ, has played a major roll in our country and government since it was first founded. Jesus never forced himself on anyone and will not force himself on you. Take the advise of some of the commentators above and stick some plugs in your ears, or leave the room momentarily. That would be the best and most considerate way to deal with it ——–and later, Jesus will deal with you!

PS. —– If you are an atheist (I was there) I would like to recommend that you read some books on near death experiences. There are quite a few out there such as LIFE AFTER LIFE, THE LIGHT BEYOND, and one I just finished, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL by Burpo. Such books can be a great faith builder and may even start you on the road to your salvation. Remember, the Bible says that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”. Don’t wait too long Mr Calhoun —–or I promise —- you won’t like what you find on the other side.

Phil Evans
9 years ago

I have an idea in reference to this problem with Mr.Calhoun. Most prayers last less than 15 seconds,30 at the most. If when they call the meeting to order and, they ask people to stand or bow their head, remain seated and look straight ahead. If the words spoken bother you . Stickj your fingers in your ears.
See how easy this was.. Your problems are now over Go Bless

Bill Chouinard
9 years ago

The council should announce “We are about to have a prayer, all those who want to leave, please do so now’ They can come back in after the prayer. This is so ridiculous it ceases to be funny.. .

Michael Gentry
9 years ago

It is really very simple. The constitution states that the congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion. merely saying a prayer is NOT establishing a religion.

9 years ago

Praying at political functions is just way for politicians to show everyone how “spiritual” they are. It gives them a chance to be proud and ostentatious in their prayers so that potential voters and campaign contributors will see them. I am not a Christian so I don’t find this offensive. However, the spectacle of Christians acting like Pharisees is amusing.

The professor
9 years ago

Religion is and should be a personal mattter. Individuals should and do have the right to congregate and practice their religion as long as they do not attempt to impose their beliefs or practices upon or harm others. Prayer is a part of the practice of religion and should not be imposed upon anyone, most particularly at secular government functions.

Christians, Muslims and Jews, as well as people of other faiths, Are always trying to impose their beliefs upon others by supporting restrictive laws. I believe that our nations founders were wiser than todays leaders. Most if not all were practicing Christians. Yet they decided to add the anti-establishment clause to our federal constitution. Todays leaders use the law to legislate morality. They pass laws which prohibit the activities and freedoms influential religions condemn (in America it’s primarily Christianity). Truly free people must be able to engage in any and all activities that do not phsically or financially harm, or unduly impose upon the rights of others. In order to protect their own rights, people of all faiths should fight to preserve freedom for all. Mr. Calhoun is a freedom fighter.

I’m quite sure that most Americans condemn Sharia. Still these people do not oppose Christian based prayer at government functions. They tend support imposing their religions views and practices pertaining to morality and or lifestyle by using government power and the force of law. Those of you who condemn the Muslim imposition of Sharia should also condemn the Christian imposition of religion through government.

America needs a more Libertarian form of government.

9 years ago
Reply to  The professor

The Professor says America needs a more Libertarian form of government. I say we need to return to a Constitutional Republic. I’ve been in the military and been to other countries, and you better be careful what you say and do or suffer the consequence. I was thankful to god that I was given a chance to return home to a country such as America. My Grandfather and Grandmother were born in another country, they told me about mans inhumanity to man and the different forms of Government, how they work and what they do. They are ruthless to their people, and have killed millions. Do you want this for your Children and Grandchildren. WE had better keep our eyes on China and Russia. To this day they lie and appease us, all the while in the background doing evil things. My Grandfather told me America is the worlds only hope. I’m 64 years old and have seen things in my life that are impossible to express into words. Please keep America a one Nation under God always

Martha Guzman
9 years ago

Wake Up America!!!! There are those who seem to be hellbent on changing the American way to suit their needs which is selfish on their part so to all who believe in GOD stand up for your rights and lets work together saving our country from all who seem to be destroying it. “In GOD we trust”

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