Kansas county commissioner to non-believers: “Go to hell”

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is appalled at a Kansas county commissioner’s censure of nonbelievers.

FFRF recently wrote to the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners, after a Sedgwick County resident was denied an opportunity to deliver a secular invocation before the board because his request was “not made on behalf of a religious group.” FFRF requested that the commission either end its practice of hosting prayers at meetings, or alter its invocation policy to ensure that it does not discriminate against atheists and freethinkers.

In response, County Commissioner Dave Unruh stated, “If you don’t believe [in God], it’s fine with me. I don’t care. Go to hell. It’s fine.”

Unruh's comment was made at a Board of County Commissioners meeting on March 13, during a conversation with County Manager Mike Schole regarding FFRF’s letter:

Unruh: “Are we gonna get sued by those people who want us to not believe in God?”

Schole: “We have an executive session to talk about that tomorrow.”

Unruh: “Alright, I just keep wondering why are you so exercised about trying to prove to me something doesn’t exist? I mean it’s logically stupid. If you don’t believe it, it’s fine with me. I don’t care. Go to hell. It’s fine.” [laughs]

Schole: “I’m willing for my name to go to the Supreme Court.”

“Prayer at government meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive,” FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line had written to the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners. “However, if the Board insists on continuing to host prayers at public meetings, it must not discriminate against any person wishing to give a prayer. The nonreligious and members of minority religious should therefore be permitted to deliver invocations as well.”

FFRF was recently victorious in a lawsuit that turned on this very proposition.

Furthermore, Sedgwick County Code Sec. 2-28(3), which restricts those who can give an invocation to only religious leaders and clergy members, is unconstitutional because it treats similarly situated persons differently. FFRF emphasizes that this provision of the Sedgwick County Code cannot be enforced because treating an atheist or nonbeliever who wishes to give an invocation differently from a religious citizen constitutes discrimination.

In order to demonstrate the Board’s respect for the diverse range of religious and nonreligious citizens living in Sedgwick County, FFRF urges it concentrate on civil matters and leave religion to the private conscience of each individual by ending the practice of hosting prayers at its meetings.

“Religious rituals should not take place on taxpayer time and money,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “But if the board insists on continuing to allow individuals to deliver invocations, it must alter its policy to ensure that it includes atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 32,000 members across the country, including members in Kansas. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Photo Source: JeremyWhat / Shutterstock

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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