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    Loudoun government center hosts prayer service; atheists protest

    Atheists LoudounSeveral local atheists protested a National Day of Prayer service being held at the Loudoun County Government Center today. The group views the county’s primary government center playing host to a prayer service as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
    Why? That's the question outspoken atheist Rick Wingrove keeps asking. Why?

    The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors chambers at the county government center housed a National Day of Prayer service at noon today, an event that drew four atheist protesters beforehand, including Wingrove.

    Today's program at the government center served as a closing ceremony for the week-long “Bible Reading Marathon,” which was organized by the group Loudoun Awakening and held at an infamous Loudoun County-religious-atheist battleground – the Loudoun County Courthouse property.

    “Why is it necessary to do this on government property?” Wingrove said Wednesday. “Given our secular Constitution and the Constitutional mandate that religion and government be separate, the most inappropriate place for religious proselytization is on government property.”

    The CEO of Beltway Atheists and a frequent public speaker at Loudoun Board of Supervisors meetings, Wingrove used the event and National Day of Prayer as a symbol, he said, for how Loudoun officials continue to disregard the separation of church and state. Wingrove believes the U.S. Constitution is “disrespected” every time government opens its doors to “aggressive” religious group.

    “The all-Republican board seems intent on facilitating christianism [sic] on government property, implicitly endorsing Christianity and blurring the line between religion and government,” Wingrove said.

    County Attorney Jack Roberts on Wednesday said so long as the county isn't endorsing or sponsoring the prayer service, there isn't a concern regarding unconstitutionality. Just because the event is taking place at the county building -- public property -- doesn't mean the county is sponsoring the event, noted Roberts. Moreover, if Loudoun County isn't dictating or showing preference to one religion over another, there's no problem with the service, the county attorney said.

    According to an announcement from the Loudoun Awakening organization, “the purpose of the National Day of Prayer is to seek God’s blessing and guidance over our nation.”

    The Loudoun County Courthouse, just up the street from the government center, has been the setting for religious displays and protests in recent years. Several holiday and religious decorations were vandalized in 2011, bringing unwanted national headlines to the community. The most recent holiday season, however, proved relatively uneventful after the county sponsored an exhibition that included a Christmas tree, lights, ornaments, a spotlight, a nativity scene, a menorah and a Santa Claus with a sleigh and reindeer at the courthouse.

    Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said today he has no concerns about the prayer service being housed in the supervisors' chambers. Buona noted it's public property and Loudoun Awakening has the right to use the space, just like protesters have the right to peacefully protest.

    Still, Wingrove points to the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …” – as a call for strict separation of church and state.

    “The government must be neutral on matters of religion,” Wingrove said. “It would be better if religion was practiced in churches to those who are there voluntarily, while democracy and rights were dispensed by government to all.”

    Other, seemingly Roberts and Buona included, believe as long as government isn't showing favoritism or preference to one religion over another, events such as today's service are OK. The question of Free Speech factors in as well, Roberts said.


    Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

    Church Loudoun GovernmentTimes-Mirror Staff Photo/Trevor Baratko Dr. Darryl Gilbert led about a dozen attendees in the singing of "Amazing Grace" Thursday during a National Day of Prayer service at the Loudoun County Government Center.
    Comments

    Why am I not surprised that the lead photo goes to the four lonely dissenters?

    And I wouldn’t have a problem withh a Koran reading at the Leesburg Courthouse…..so long as a Bible reading would be allowed at a courthouse in Tehran or Riyahd.


    Don’t churches already get tax free status? Why wouldn’t they just do this sort of thing at a church? Tax payers pay for government buildings, that’s where I see a seperation of church and state issue.


    Taking all of these comments into account, it seems clear that the group (well intentioned or not) that objects to a prayer group meeing in a County of Loudoun building, is really an example of how intolerant we as a county have gotten.  If you don’t like something, scream at the top of your lungs that you are offended, and demand it stop immediately.  I suspect that way too many in this county see every opportunity as a dividing line, and if so, we really are not one nation, but the louder the better splintered group.


    Organizing an event on public property, particularly the County courthouse, isn’t about celebration of religious freedom.  It’s a calculated political statement.  To represent it otherwise is deliberately misleading or willfully ignorant.  I’d ascribe the former to the organizers and the latter to their caps-lock enthusiast supporters. 

    The organizers could’ve had the service at their (private) place of worship and nobody would have complained.  Holding the event in the Loudoun County Courthouse - and being permitted to do so - is a tacit endorsement of religion (i.e. Christian re: “Bible Reading Marathon”) by the County government.


    I don’t object to using public property that is open for all to use.  But I wanted to point out that few non-sectarian or interfaith gathering are inclusive of any faiths not derived from the one God belief common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  I’m thinking in particular of Buddhism (which I understand does not mention God per se) and Hinduism (which has multiple Gods, although a Hindu I met at a Unitarian service explained to me that they are all manifestations of the same one God.)


    “I’m sure there would be plenty of hostile comments if the Koran was being read instead of the Christian bible.”

    From whom?  From the same atheists protesting Christians reading the Bible?  If not, why not?

    “Yes, look out if a bunch of Muslims wanted to use the space.  The “Christians” who talk about freedom would suddenly be sounding the alarm.”

    Would atheists object to Muslims (or any other faith) holding prayer outside a government building?  The better question is, should they?


    And this is a story because .....Kicking myself for wasting my time. to BOS, there are far more bigger issues, stop wasting time/money. To everyone else, who cares.


    There will always be haters of Our Religious Freedom and Our God! The Atheist clearly have no idea what Our Founding Fathers believed in! They believed in GOD, and came to America for Religious Freedom to worship GOD! Being able to worship and praise or sign hymns as they saw fit –not the way the established “State run Church”  dictated. Separation of Church and State” only meant to separate the Church worship time from Mandatory State or local Government Business!  In the early 1800’s there was a need to hold a “Separate” meeting time for government business so that members of other religious congregations could attend the mandatory town government meetings. This way if you were attending the Baptist Church in a neighboring town, you would still be able to attend the town government meeting (held SEPARATE and APART from the church worship time). Today’s Atheist cannot take away Our Right to hold a Prayer Service and give thanks to almighty God! These Atheist have the Freedom to LEAVE or NOT Attend the PRAYER! “No Establishment of a National Religion by Congress only means they cannot Mandate a particular way of Worship – Still all OF GOD! (ie Roman Catholic vs Baptist!). The fact that our local leaders hold a prayer service and to seek God’s Guidance and Wisdom is certainly within our traditions, freedoms and founding principles. After all, without this Religious Freedom, our worship might be run by the “STATE” and attendance “Mandatory”, and anyone found not attending the “STATE” run worship service might be jailed, flogged, hung, or expelled from the town. Atheist wake up and be grateful that, as an Atheist, you live in a country that allows you the Freedom to worship or NOT, believe in GOD or NOT, pray or NOT!


    The Board Room at the Courthouse has been reserved on May 12 by the Beltway Atheists for a National Day of Un-Prayer.  The meeting will be from 8 am to 4 pm for a marathon day of Un-prayers.


    Yes, look out if a bunch of Muslims wanted to use the space.  The “Christians” who talk about freedom would suddenly be sounding the alarm.


    The bible isn’t important to Loudoun.  It’s important to a large group of vocal residents who believe in magic.

    Take your rituals to private property.


    People have asked me about the value of a public reading of the Word of God. There is great Old Testament precedent for the recognition in that powerful book-centered worship service reported in Nehemiah 8:8, “[Priests] read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave it sense so that the people understood the reading.”

    It is the 6th Annual Bible Reading Marathon (BRM) organizers’ desire to reveal to our community the powerful Word of God.  The Bible’s transforming power is guaranteed.  Jesus Christ set the example of how important the Word was to Him and should be to us.  When tempted by Satan, Jesus quoted the Word, “Man does not live by bread alone; but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3).

    From April 27th to May 2nd, we will be publicly proclaiming and declaring the Word of God over Loudoun County. We believe that by this effort, those who hear us may be exposed to the Word of God, perhaps even for the very first time.  In a unified effort by the local community’s churches, no one church or denomination is hosting the BRM.  Those of us who believe in the power of God’s Word are coming together outside of our church walls and publicly declaring our faith in God.

    Through the BRM, we celebrate our faith. We proclaim the importance of the Bible to Loudoun’s past, present and future and we celebrate the religious freedom we enjoy in this nation.


    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …”  To my knowledge, Congress was not there, and hence, NO LAWS WERE MADE regarding a preference of religion.  End of story.  Take it outside.


    “the purpose of the National Day of Prayer is to seek God’s blessing and guidance over our nation.”

    Obviously, God isn’t listening.


    I’m sure there would be plenty of hostile comments if the Koran was being read instead of the Christian bible.  Please keep religion out of our govt places.


    What a deal.  People coming together to pray, or support prayer, and guess what.  Someone wants to “protest.”  I guess the main problem with the “protestor” is that no one is praying to the god of nothing, or in otherwords, Atheist.  After all, if you believe in the greatness of nothing, as atheists do, than it certainly makes sense an atheiest would be upset with those who would dare to actually believe in something.  After all, it can’t be much fun not believing in anything.


    The Courthouse is the property of the citizens of Loudoun County. If the citizens of Loudoun want to use the property for prayer, they have every right. No different than if the Atheists want to host a Hate Religion service.

    Wingrove needs to go back an read the part in the Constitution about Freedom of Expression. Ralph Buona is 100% correct in his remarks.

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