published Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

New Hamilton County prayer policy spurs confusion

  • photo
    Hamilton County Commissioners during a commission meeting in this file photo.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Hamilton County commissioners still are ironing out their new prayer policy with speakers now scheduled through the end of November -- and there's already one disgruntled minister.

Universal Life Church Minister Eddie Bridges called the commission office Tuesday to confirm what time he was to show up to give an invocation today. Instead, the commission's schedule showed Temple Baptist Church's Shad Smith in today's slot.

"On the very day the Hamilton County Commission released their new policy, I immediately called the County Commission office because I'm an ordained clergyman," Bridges said. "While I was on the phone, the woman in the office I was speaking with, she said, 'Well great, wonderful, we'll send out an invitation to you and you'll just need to respond and we'll put you down July 18.'"

Bridges said he responded via email to all nine commissioners through the commission's website as soon as he received his invitation on July 11.

However, County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said only a letter will suffice as a response.

"I might have remembered getting that email, but he needs to send a letter," Henry said.

The letter sent to clergy members from the commission asks, "please state that request in your written reply."

As of Tuesday afternoon, the prayer schedule showed Bridges is set for Nov. 29, the final day currently filled by the first-come, first-served policy.

The commission passed the new prayer policy on July 3, making the decision weeks after Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones filing a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Tennessee, alleging violations of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

The plaintiffs later filed a motion for preliminary injunction, seeking to have the prayers temporarily halted until Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice can rule on the case. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for July 26.


Date - Church - Minister

Today - Temple Baptist - Shad Smith

July 26 - Fellowship Baptist Church - Chris Peponis

Aug. 1 - First Lutheran Church - Mark McCrory

Aug. 9 - Hickory Valley Christian Church - Gary Armes

Aug. 15 - Mountain Church of God - J. Paul Massey

Aug. 30 - Chabad-Lubavitch of Chattanooga - Rabbi Shaul Perlstein

Sept. 5 - First Presbyterian Church - Jerry Harwood

Sept. 13 - Flat Top Independent Church - Mark Harwood

Sept. 19 - Middle Cross Baptist Church - Ed Gravett

Sept. 27 - Burks United Methodist Church - Rowland S. Buck

Oct. 3 - Olivet Baptist Church - Kevin L. Adams, Sr.

Oct. 9 - Transfiguration Church - Alfred L. Hawkins

Oct. 17 - Unitarian Universalist Church - Chris Tregaskis

Nov. 1 - St. Tikhon of Moscow Orthodox Mission - Fr. Daniel Talley

Nov. 7 - Lookout Valley Baptist Church - Troy Walliser

Nov. 15 - Calvary Independent Baptist Church - Fred Andrews

Nov. 21 - Collegedale Church of the Seventh-Day Adventists - David Smith

Nov. 29 - Universal Life Church - Edward B. Bridges

Source: Hamilton County Commission

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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