Ocala, Florida — Today’s Community Prayer Vigil, that the Ocala Police Department is urging citizens to support, has atheists upset.
This is a community vigil, not an Ocala Police Department, or City of Ocala vigil.
Ocala Post has received more than a dozen “anonymous” hate e-mails from local individuals claiming to be atheist requesting the announcement from the Ocala Police Department be removed.
Citing separation of church and state, the e-mails claim it is a violation of the United States Constitution for a law enforcement agency — or any government agency — to be involved a prayer vigil. According to e-mails received by Ocala Post, if an individual citizen organized the prayer vigil, there would be no complaints.
Frances “Jean” Porgal is the organizer of the Ocala Atheists as well as the Williston Atheists groups.
A person’s right to free speech is certainly protected; however, threats are not.
Ocala Post stands firm and will not remove the announcement.
Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham and Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn are also standing firm.
Chief Graham thanked Ocala Post for standing strong on the situation. He also reiterated that this event is a Community Prayer Vigil and not the Ocala Police Departments event to cancel.
Mayor Guinn called the atheist’s actions, “ridiculous.”
[Updated on September 24, 2014, at 1:07 p.m.]
Ocala Post is currently reviewing the aforementioned e-mails. If it is determined that the e-mails are credible threats of violence — as with any media outlet — they will be turned over to local law enforcement. Until that time, they will not be made available to the public.