Commissioner Refuses Church-State Separation Group’s Request to Stop Reading Bible at Public Meetings

Photo Credit: Christopher Alcantara/Facebook

DELTONA, Fla. — A city commissioner in Florida has refused a prominent church-state separation group’s request to stop reading Bible verses at the conclusion of public meetings.

Deltona Commissioner Christopher Alcantara recently sent a brief and blunt response to Americans United for Separation of Church and State after receiving a letter asserting that his Bible-reading violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“Didn’t bother to read all of your letter. I am not going to stop. Have a great day. God bless,” he wrote.

The organization said that it had received a complaint about Alcantara’s practices, and asked that he discontinue reading the Scriptures at city meetings before members of the public.

“We write to inform you that government officials reading from the Bible or offering other proselytizing comments to the audience during a governmental meeting violates the Establishment Clause …, and to ask that Commissioner Alcantara stop doing this,” Americans United wrote.

It asserted that requiring Alcantara to cease his readings would not violate his free speech rights since he is a city official speaking on behalf of the government.

According to the local newspaper, the Daily Commercial, Assistant Interim City Attorney B. Scott George said that there isn’t much the Commission can do about the matter.

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“AU’s letter frames Commissioner Alcantara’s conduct as ‘proselytizing,‘” he wrote to City Manager Jane Shang. “However, as the law currently stands on this issue, AU would need to establish that Commissioner Alcantara’s conduct rises to the level of a ‘pattern’ of denigrating other religious practices or coercing secular participation.”

Comments under Alcantar’s recent Facebook page about the matter varied, with some lamenting that the modern world seeks to remove God from government, and others arguing that if Alcantar doesn’t stop, the city could face a costly legal battle.

“That’s why this world is in the state that it’s in because they’re trying to keep God out. But they can’t and they won’t,” one commenter wrote.

“You are wasting the time of others with your religious activities during council meetings. You were elected to do government business, not to preach,” another opined. “No one is telling you not to be religious. If you want to spend your time doing that, then fine, do that. Just don’t do it on the city’s time.”

Alcantara said that he is not promoting one religion over another and believes that some are simply offended because of the book selected.

“I share words of wisdom at the end, after all business is covered, during my commissioner comments. If folks don’t like it, too bad, tune out,” he wrote in one response to a follower. “If I shared quotes from Harry Potter no one would care, but share words of wisdom and everyone wants to throw a fuss.”

Noah Webster, known as the “Father of American Education” (1758-1843), once said, “No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from—vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war—proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”


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  • Amos Moses – He>i

    he was born that way …. what is the problem …………

    • Bob Johnson

      I was born naked. Society dictates that I don’t do it at government meetings.

      • Amos Moses – He>i

        but he was born that way … who is society to judge ………

      • Amos Moses – He>i

        been to the beach lately ….. they may as well be naked ……….

        • Bob Johnson

          And Commissioner Alcantara is free to go to the beach and recite scripture all day long. He just cannot do it at government meetings.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            but he was born that way ………….. that is the homosexual and tranny justification for what they do ……… same standard ….. right ………..

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Complete non sequitur.

  • FoJC

    A public official reading from the Bible doesn’t establish a state sponsored religion, controlled and dictated by passed laws. It just makes atheists mad, so they complain and misuse the Constitution to control what others do and say.

    Follow Jesus, find Wisdom.

    • Trilemma

      Would you make the same defense if he had been reading from the Quran?

      • FoJC

        Reading from any religious text in a public speech, unless the words specifically read are concerning the actual establishment of a state sponsored religion from said text, is not violating the Constitution.

        Islam is a wicked religion calling for the conversion or enslavement/annihilation of those who reject their false god. If America embraces Islam, it will forsake freedom of religious practice in lieu of promoting Sharia Law.

        Follow Jesus, find Truth.

        • Trilemma

          I think it would be very difficult to read from a religious text without it being viewed as establishing that religion as state sponsored.

          • FoJC

            It being viewed that way doesn’t it make it that way. For a state established religion to be in existence, there would have to be laws passed making it the only acceptable religion in the country. That’s not going to happen, and not because silly people get offended because a government official reads a religious text, but because there’s enough support for the current Constitution to keep it from happening.

            “I feel like a tree today. Please, keep all the chainsaws away from me!”

            Follow Jesus, find Wisdom.

          • Guzzman

            You wrote, “For a state established religion to be in existence, there would have to be laws passed making it the only acceptable religion in the country.” No court in the history of our nation has ever interpreted the Establishment Clause so narrowly as you do.

            The undeniable intent of the Founders in writing the Constitution was to separate religion and government – the Constitution gives government no grant of authority over religious matters. James Madison, “Father of the Constitution”, wrote authoritative declarations that the Constitution and the First Amendment safeguard a “separation between religion and government” (Madison, Detached Memoranda, 1820). As president, Madison vetoed bills, none of which had anything to do with government declaring a state-established religion, on grounds that the bills nevertheless violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

          • FoJC

            The undeniable intent of the “founding fathers” was to create a government that didn’t control religious belief, as it was in England and Europe. No governmental established religion and control thereof. This guarantee is afforded to those who work in the government as well.

          • Guzzman

            The Federal courts have repeatedly made the distinction between First Amendment government versus private religious speech – Board of Education v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990): “There is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause FORBIDS, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.”

            When government representatives are acting in an official capacity, they in effect are the government, and must remain neutral on religious matters – neither favoring nor disfavoring any religious viewpoint. Off the job, the Commissioner is free to practice his religion as she sees fit.

          • FoJC

            You know, it’s sad that you think human courts actually define reality. All they define is interpretation, not reality. The reality is, unless there is a specific law stating the USA is recognizing such-and-such religion as the nation’s official religion, then the Constitution is being upheld. A government official openly practicing his or her religion doesn’t establish a national religion. People can deny reality and play word games, but reality won’t change.

            Follow Jesus, find Truth.

          • Guzzman

            You wrote, “…unless there is a specific law stating the USA is recognizing such-and-such religion as the nation’s official religion, then the Constitution is being upheld.” As I said earlier, and you fail to address, no court in the history of our nation has ever interpreted the Establishment Clause in so bizarre and narrow a manner as you do. Do you have any legal citation at all supporting your far-fetched interpretation of the Establishment Clause? If so, I will gladly review it and give you my thoughts.

            Meanwhile, back in the real world, the commissioner took an oath to uphold the Constitution. That very Constitution forbids the Commissioner from using his government position to promote religion while acting in an official capacity. It is actual, settled case law in the real world.

          • Trilemma

            If the city had passed a law allowing the Bible to be read during government meetings, that law would be ruled unconstitutional and the Bible reading would have to stop. By allowing the Bible readings during government meetings, the city has an implicit law that is unconstitutional. The Bible reading is unconstitutional whether there’s an actual law that allows it or an implicit one. Either way, the Bible reading is unconstitutional and needs to stop.

          • FoJC

            You argue from a position of error. You speak from opinion and emotion, not established law. But, this is the condition the USA is in now, so people think you’re right.

            Now, don’t bother me anymore about this issue. I don’t care about your opinions.

            I…

            Follow Jesus, find Truth.

          • Trilemma

            The Lemon Test along with the Establishment Test are established law.

          • NCOriolesFan

            So I read a book, I am establishing that book as an official religion. Try again.

          • Trilemma

            I didn’t say, “any book.” I said, “religious text.”

          • NCOriolesFan

            Ok, religious text then. Where’s the proclamation that any town uses to make Christianity the official religion? Just because there is only symbol like the Cross does NOT endorse a state religion. The Cross has many meanings too.

          • Trilemma

            A proclamation is not needed to be in violation of the establishment clause. What are some of the many alternate meanings of the Latin Cross?

      • NCOriolesFan

        Congress has an elected Muslim from Minnesota sworn in on the Quran, so what’s the problem

        • Trilemma

          There is no problem as long as he doesn’t read from the Quran during government meetings.

          • NCOriolesFan

            He can if wants too. The Bible is read at Congressional prayer meetings so the Quran can be read too.

          • Trilemma

            Yes, there are exceptions. But generally, religious material cannot be read at government meetings.

  • InTheChurch

    If your city is cool with it, keep doing it.

  • Jason Todd

    He can because the Constitution says he can. End of discussion.

    Oh, and Barry Lynn isn’t a man of god.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      Yeah, the Supreme Court disagrees.

    • Sven

      He isn’t a Christian, period.

  • Guzzman

    The government has no religious freedom – under the limited, enumerated powers given to it under the Constitution, there is no grant of authority over religious matters. In this case, the city commissioner IS government, so acting in his official capacity as a government representative, he does not have the authority to speak for the government on religious matters and cannot lawfully use his position to promote his religious beliefs. When not acting as a government employee, he is free to exercise his religious beliefs to his heart’s content.

    Board of Education v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990): “There is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause FORBIDS, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.”

    • NCOriolesFan

      Elected officials are entitled to the SAME Constitutional rights we all have regardless of your personal beleifs. .

      • Ambulance Chaser

        Yes, in their individual capacity. Not when acting as agents of the government.

        • NCOriolesFan

          They are also INDIVIDUALS with jobs.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Yes, and when they’re not doing those jobs they’re perfectly free to participate in religion.

          • NCOriolesFan

            The Constitutional door is ALWAYS OPEN.

          • Guzzman

            The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that government employees do not enjoy normal First Amendment protections when their speech takes place in the context of their job duties. I provided a direct quote from the Supreme Court saying exactly that – Board of Education v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990). What further evidence could you possibly need?

            When not acting as a government employee, the Commissioner is free to exercise his religious beliefs to his heart’s content.

          • NCOriolesFan

            SCOTUS is not the Constitution. It has interpreted it from their liberal imagination of sacrificing the masses for the crybaby minority, not legal precedence.

          • Guzzman

            Sorry, but that question was resolved in Marbury v. Madison (1803). Marbury formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. The Supreme Court decided that it was the legislature’s role to make the laws and the court’s role to determine what the law is in actual cases and the constitutionality of laws.

            If you are opposed to an independent judiciary and judicial review, what possible alternative would you propose? It is the very basis for constitutional law. The United States has never known any other approach in all of its history.

      • Trilemma

        We all lose some of our First Amendment rights on the job. The government cannot suppress religious expression in the workplace as much as private sector employers can.

  • NCOriolesFan

    Elected Americans don’t sacrifice their Constitutional rights at the door of secular crybabies.