Newark — Acting on behalf of a borough resident, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey announced today that it has filed suit against Point Pleasant Beach to challenge the borough's longstanding practice of reciting the Lord's Prayer at its municipal council meetings. The ACLU-NJ has also asked the court to issue an injunction halting the practice while the suit is ongoing.
"The Constitution forbids a government entity from showing preference to a particular religion," said Jeanne LoCicero, ACLU-NJ Deputy Legal Director. "The prayer recited at Point Pleasant Beach council meetings is one of the most extreme examples we have seen of an explicit preference for Christianity."
After examining public records, the ACLU-NJ learned that the Borough has been reciting the Lord's Prayer - one of the most well-known Christian prayers - at its council meetings for at least six years.
Point Pleasant Beach resident Sharon Cadalzo, who regularly attends council meetings, expressed her concerns about the recitation of the Lord's Prayer to both the current and former mayor. After years of distress over the practice, Cadalzo sought the ACLU-NJ's help to file a complaint against the practice.
"People of all faiths and beliefs should feel welcome at public meetings," said Cadalzo. "It's a matter of fairness. No member of the community should feel that their beliefs exclude them from public life."
"Beginning a municipal council meeting with a prayer rooted in just one religious tradition not only violates the state constitution, but also divides the community," said ACLU-NJ cooperating attorney Frank L. Corrado, of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gibson P.C. in Wildwood, New Jersey.
The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, is captioned Cadalzo v. Borough of Point Pleasant Beach, et al., docket number L-3409-10, and is before Ocean County Assignment Judge Vincent J. Grasso.