published Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Prayer supporters gather 900 signatures on petition

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Should the county commission be allowed to pray before meeting?

Two Hamilton County residents took it upon themselves to gather a public show of support for Hamilton County commissioners being sued in federal court for holding prayers during meetings.

Kelvin Flemings, 77, said he and Herbert "Sonny" Frizzell, 84, delivered about 900 signatures to the Hamilton County Commission office Monday morning on a "stand for prayer at County Commission meetings" petition they started two weeks ago.

"This is my home, and I'm just tired of people messing with us," Flemings said after delivering the papers.

The petition stated: "We, the undersigned, residing in Hamilton County Tennessee, have a big problem with a small group of people who are attempting to stop our commission meetings from beginning with prayer. This is not forcing a given religion on anyone else. We respect another person's religion or lack of. We believe in Jesus, Son of our God."

In June, Brandon Jones and Tommy Coleman sued Hamilton County commissioners for holding Christian prayers during their weekly meetings. Then the pair filed a motion for preliminary injunction, seeking to halt the commission's public prayers until U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice can rule on the case.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning on the motion.

Flemings and Frizzell wanted to get their petition to commissioners ahead of that court date. The two men placed the petitions in an auto repair shop, a hair salon, a Daisy restaurant and seven churches, they said.

"I just didn't think it was right for them -- this is supposed to be a free country -- to stop [commissioners] from having prayer," Frizzell said.

Contact staff writer Ansley Haman at ahaman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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