- Associated Press - Saturday, March 18, 2017

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - An Alaska Superior Court judge has denied a Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member’s request for an expedited hearing that would have allowed him to publish an op-ed supporting an ordinance that would remove prayer from the beginning of assembly meetings.

Homer Assembly member Willy Dunne was challenging the assembly’s contract with a legal nonprofit that is representing the assembly against a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, The Peninsula Clarion reported (https://bit.ly/2nQ5QVb). The contract prohibits assembly members from making public statements without approval.

Dunne has sponsored an ordinance that would remove the invocation from the beginning of assembly meetings. He wanted to publish an opinion article about his ordinance before March 21 hearing on the matter.

Policy currently allows invocations from members of religious organizations that have established local presences and regular meetings. Chaplains serving organizations like fire departments and hospitals can also give invocations.

Borough Attorney Colette Thompson previously told him that Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit, doesn’t approve of Dunne’s piece and that publishing it would violate a contract the borough holds with the group.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has agreed to represent the borough against a lawsuit filed in December by the ACLU. The lawsuit says the borough’s invocation policy is unconstitutional.

Since the lawsuit was filed, assembly members have to go through the borough and be approved by Alliance Defending Freedom before communicating with the media. A clause in the borough’s contract with the group requires the borough not to make any public statements without approval.

However, before Dunne’s complaint’s first hearing in court, the borough filed an affidavit saying Thompson did not say Dunne couldn’t publish his op-ed.

John McKay, Dunne’s attorney, said the borough changed its opinion after Dunne filed the complaint and that the question remains whether the contract applies to elected officials of the borough.


Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, https://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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