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Canadian Atheist Sues for $5,000 to Stop County Council's Recitation of the Lord's Prayer Over Feelings of 'Anguish, Discrimination, Exclusion

"I don’t like politicians who break the law, and our county council is breaking the law."

Photo Credit: FILE

A Canadian man is launching a legal battle against his local government in an effort to stop the Lord’s Prayer from being recited before city council meetings.

Peter Ferguson is suing, claiming that the practice is causing him “anguish, discrimination, exclusion, rejection and loss of enjoyment of life.” These bold claims also come with a request for $5,000 in damages along with a court order to no longer allow the Christian prayer in Kimberley, Ontario (Grey County).

"I don’t like politicians who break the law, and our county council is breaking the law," Ferguson told The National Post.

As a non-believer, Ferguson claims that the recitation of the prayer causes him distress, as highlighted by the aforementioned emotions. He is joined by another Ontario resident who shares his view that the Lord’s Prayer is a violation of epic proportions. She also sued her city council over the same issue last month.

Ferguson is basing his claims on a 1999 case in which the Ontario Court of Appeals forced Penetanguishene, a local town, to stop reciting the very same prayer. The basis? It purportedly “imposed a Christian moral tone on public deliberations,” Religion News Service reports. Ferguson is being represented by Secular Ontario, a local atheist group.

National Post has more about the legal battle:

Secular Ontario president Sheila Ayala and her colleagues spent most of 2005 compiling a list of Ontario municipalities that recite the Lord’s Prayer before every council meeting.

Ms. Ayala said the organization sent letters to all the municipalities on its list in 2006 and only two willingly changed their policy. Letters to the Ontario provincial government were also unsuccessful, leaving legal action from locals as the only other recourse, she said.

According to Ms. Ayala, plaintiffs are warned of potential pushback from their community before being guided through the process.

While some may see the effort as an over-the-top attempt at preventing religious expression, Ferguson believes that it was the right step to take after he purportedly spent over a year trying to convince local officials to abandon the practice.

“My distress from this discrimination, exclusion and rejection have reduced my ability to enjoy living and participating in a democratic country and in municipal affairs,” he proclaimed. “This has nothing to do with my personal beliefs. I care about the law. I care about being fair.”

Like other communities in the area, Grey County will need to decide between embroiling itself in a lengthy and costly legal battle, simply bowing to Ferguson and his compatriot’s commands – or finding a middle ground on the matter. It is this latter option that the town has essentially pledged to make, as officials plan to strike a balance between tradition and cost.

(H/T: Religion News Service)

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