published Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Hamilton County commission prayer challengers receiving donations

Brandon Jones, left, and Thomas Coleman, right, lead a rally on the second level of the Hamilton County Courthouse in this file photo.
Brandon Jones, left, and Thomas Coleman, right, lead a rally on the second level of the Hamilton County Courthouse in this file photo.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Henry, Skillern reappointed

Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry and Vice Chairman Fred Skillern will be keeping their posts another year. Commissioners voted to reappoint both on Wednesday.

Latest Hamilton County commission prayer

"Father God, as we seek to open this day and this meeting with prayer, I am mindful and called to remember the words of President Clinton's second inaugural address, where he said, 'May those whose generations we cannot yet see, whose names we may never know, say of us here today that we led our beloved land into a new century with the American dream alive for all of her children, with the American promise of a more perfect union a reality for her people, with America's bright flame of freedom spreading throughout the world. From the height of this place and the summit of this century, let us go forth. May God strengthen our hands for the good work ahead.' Lord, even as his words for a presidential term, they also fit for the meeting today. Father, we do not know what events in history are small and what events are of great magnitude in the future history of this city, of this state and of this nation. May the work of the men and women here today be done as if every decision holds great significance in light of eternity. May you bless those in authority here with unfettered wisdom, noble discernment and forthright humility. For any of us to succeed, we must succeed as one America. Therefore, strengthen the hands of those today for the good work ahead. In your holy name, Amen."

Two men suing Hamilton County commissioners over prayers held during commission meetings now have about $5,000 from private donors to help fund their case.

In recent weeks, plaintiffs Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones began raising funds for court and litigation fees.

"We weren't surprised at all that we were able, through the Internet and the help of social media, to raise $5,000," Coleman said Wednesday. "It was a rough estimate from our attorney in regards to upcoming appeals fees, filing, depositions. We also wanted to have it on hand. If the trial was on hand and there was a verdict, we'd need to have it on hand."

The money is being held by their attorney, Robin Flores, in escrow. Flores is working their case for free.

"It's not for Robin in any way, shape or form. It's to be used for court costs, depositions and filing fees," Coleman said.

Last week, the pair appealed an Aug. 29 ruling against them to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice denied Coleman and Jones' motion to temporarily halt prayers until Mattice can rule on the underlying suit, which calls for a permanent halt to the prayers.

Though no action has been taken on the appeal, commissioners continued holding weekly prayers on Wednesday.

First Presbyterian Church's Jerry Harwood addressed the commission, acknowledging the recent controversy surrounding its legislative prayer.

"I understand and want to empathize with the different sides," he said. "Prayer is important. It manifests who we are and what we believe. To have another's prayer placed upon us can feel like shackles. To be told you cannot pray according to his or her own conviction can be equally circumscribed and shackling.

"I would humbly offer the following prayer, and I'm going to say it in my own faith with the invitation for each man and woman to mesh their hearts with me where they can, to silently lift up their own thoughts where they cannot, and to in unison join me in respect for this court and its importance for this community."

Last week, a local rabbi who had volunteered to pray backed out, citing controversy surrounding the litigation. Other clergy are scheduled through February to give invocations.

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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