A city commissioner in Florida has been asked by a church-state separation group to stop reading Bible verses at public meetings, but he has refused to comply with the request.
According to News 6, the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) sent a letter to the city of Deltona, requesting Commissioner Christopher Alcantara to stop citing scriptures as it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
A Deltona resident reportedly complained to the group that the Bible readings have nothing to do with the city's agenda.
The organization argued that requiring Alcantara to stop reading the Bible would not violate his free speech rights as he is a city official speaking on behalf of the government.
In a brief response to AU's letter, Alcantara said that he will not stop reading Bible verses. "Didn't bother to read all of your letter. I am not going to stop. Have a great day. God bless," the commissioner wrote, according to Christian News Network.
Alcantara noted that reading the scripture has been part of his routine since he took office in November.
"When I see something that talks to my heart and I feel that others should hear it, I share it in meeting. I don't expound on it. I just read it and move on," he stated.
"I personally believe this was politically motivated because the same individual has criticized me since I got elected. I've been doing it since November but now he wants to complain about it because, in my opinion, the others things haven't really stuck," he added.
The city reportedly sided with Alcantara, telling AU in a letter that the commissioner was only exercising his First Amendment right and not asking for participation.
City Manager Jane Shang further noted that the AU has to establish that the commissioner's conduct "rises to the level of a 'pattern' of denigrating other religious practices or coercing secular participation."
Assistant Interim City Attorney B. Scott George stated that there is not the commission can do about the matter without formal charges.
Following Alcantara's response, Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director of Americans United, insisted that the commissioner's approach is a clear constitutional violation. He said that the organization would discuss the matter internally with the complainant.
Daytona Beach News-Journal noted that the city commission operating guidelines do not restrict the subjects commissioners may discuss during their time to offer comments.