Atheists who complained about pre-meeting prayers conducted by members of the Pismo Beach City Council in California can now claim a win.
Council members say they’re going to stop saying prayers at public meetings and that the volunteer chaplain will no longer be invited to give the opening invocations, The Blaze reported. They’ve also agreed to pay a symbolic settlement of $1 to each of the the two plaintiffs — and another $47,500 to cover the two plaintiffs’ legal fees.
The council members announced their decision on the heels of complaints filed by the out-of-state Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is headquartered in Wisconsin, and by the more local Atheists United San Luis Obispo. Their allegations: Both prayer and chaplain — who was an unpaid volunteer — violate the California Constitution and the state’s civil rights laws, The Blaze reported.
So now the Rev. Paul Jones has been given the boot, along with the prayer practice.
“We’re getting everything we asked for,” said Atheists United board member David Leidner to the San Luis Obispo Tribune. “I think what it means first and foremost is we have a government that is welcoming to all of its citizens. And it also means that we have protected the separation between church and state in our county.”
Pismo Beach officials said they decided to cut the prayers to save taxpayers from fighting off what they guessed would be a lengthy court battle. The San Luis Obispo Superior Court still has to give the final stamp of approval to the settlement fees.
Mr. Jones had served as the Pismo Beach chaplain since 2005.