Florida city challenges court ruling over police prayer vigil
The city council of Ocala, Florida, is vigorously defending its Police Chief Greg Graham, above, who violated the Establishment Clause by organising a 2014 prayer vigil. He separately stands accused of sexual misconduct.
US District Judge Timothy J Corrigan ruled in May that Graham and city leaders broke the Establishment Clause when it held the vigil after a drive-by shooting injured several children.
Corrigan wrote in his order:
The government cannot initiate, organize, sponsor or conduct a community prayer vigil. That is what happened here.
The American Humanist Association (AHA), representing several local residents who took exception to the vigil, filed a lawsuit that claimed the police chief was “reckless and callously indifferent” because of his involvement in the planning and promotion of the event.
Graham and the city were ordered to pay just $3 in damages plus attorney fees, but the city council has filed a motion to vacate the judgement.
Todd Starnes, host of “Fox News & Commentary, wrote:
It really takes a perverted kind of reprobate to sue a police department for participating in a prayer vigil.
And he pointed out that “renowned evangelist” Franklin Graham said prayer is a basic human right and public employees should be able to petition the Almighty.
He said the President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse tweeted:
George Washington prayed, Abraham Lincoln prayed, and other presidents have called on God publicly in times of war or crisis. Atheists have the right not to believe and not to call on God. People of faith have the right to pray, and it should not be taken away.
But AHA legal director David Niose said prayer rallies should be run by churches, not police departments.
In 2016 The Ocala Post tore into Ocala’s Mayor, Kent Guinn, above, for showing “favouritism” towards the police chief:
During a press conference Monday, Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn displayed favoritism toward Ocala Police Chief Kenneth Gregory Graham, who has been accused of Sexual Harassment, Hostile Treatment, Retaliation, and Discrimination.
The complaint was filed on September 15, 2016.
Mayor Guinn also seemed to display arrogance toward the media as they asked legitimate questions about why Chief Graham had not been placed on administrative leave at the start of the investigation
Mayor Guinn, who is close personal friends with Chief Graham, said, “I stand by Chief Graham, I trust him.”
The mayor fell short of placing the blame on the three individuals who filed the Grievance against the Chief.
Mayor Guinn said, “I think the morale [of the police department] has been hurt by the actions of these individuals.”
“The Chief has been attacked, the Chief is well respected in this community and in this police department. People love him.”
Then, on June this year, The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said that its investigation into a former Ocala police officer’s complaints provided evidence that “establishes a reasonable cause to believe that (Police Chief Greg Graham) discriminated against” the officer due to her sex.
Former Officer Rachel Mangum alleges she suffered unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and a hostile work environment caused by the chief while she worked at the Ocala Police Department. The EEOC has investigated her claims for the past 21 months.
In 2001, it was determined that then Sergeant Greg Graham, who was married at the time, had a sexual relationship with a Marion County sheriff’s deputy.
At that time, Graham stated that he regretted the incident, and that he and his family had moved on.
In 2003, Graham was investigated after he falsified his cell phone reimbursement forms. He falsified the reports to avoid paying the city for his personal use of the department-issued phone.
The investigator on that particular case was seeking felony charges against Graham, and even though the evidence was damning, he was never charged.