• Winter Garden mayor kicks man out of meeting for sitting during Pledge of Allegiance


    WINTER GARDEN, Fla. - Channel 9 learned the mayor of Winter Garden kicked a man out of a public meeting because he refused to stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance.

    The man at the center of the controversy did not want to speak about the incident and did not want to be identified.

    The police chief escorted the man out of Wednesday night’s commissioners meeting at City Hall in front of dozens of people.

    During the meeting, the city was about to consider changing its policy on prayer at meetings to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

    An audio recording from the meeting captured the incident.

    “Now sir, please stand while we do the pledge. You don’t have to pledge but please stand,” said Mayor John Rees to the man.

    When the man resisted yet again, the mayor asked the police chief to get involved.

    “OK chief, ask him to either stand or please, please escort him out until we get through the pledge. This is just not fair to our troops and people overseas, sir. I’m sorry,” Rees said.

    The police chief then escorted the man out and he never came back.

    The Winter Garden resident referred WFTV to the Central Florida Freethinking Community.

    "It's within every citizen's right to attent a public meeting and to not stand for a prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance. It is not within the government's right to ask a citizen to do that," said Andrew Seidel, a member of the organization.

    The organization wants Winter Garden to stop having its commissioners lead prayer at their meetings or to get rid of prayer all together.

    The city manager said the city is weighing its options.

    "We've had our lawyers reviewing it, and probably at the next meeting we're going to bring a proposal as to how to move forward," said city manager Michael Bollhoefer.

    Members of the the Central Florida Freethinking Community plan to show up and remain seated during the invocation and the pledge at the next meeting in two weeks.

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