• Complaint filed after man kicked out of meeting for not standing for Pledge of Allegiance


    WINTER GARDEN, Fla. - The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a complaint against the city of Winter Garden after the mayor kicked a man out of a public meeting because he refused to stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance.

    Channel 9 has obtained video of the incident at the August 27 city commission meeting in Winter Garden.

    "Waiting for everyone to rise," Mayor John Rees said.

    "Sorry, are you waiting for me?" the unidentified man said. "I don't have to."

    The mayor reportedly told the man he was being disrespectful to the troops.

    "You have one of two choices, sir. You may stand up for the pledge, you don't have to say it, but please stand," Rees said.

    When the man refused, police escorted him out of the meeting.

    "He doesn't stand for the invocation because he's not religious and he doesn't stand for the Pledge of Allegiance for the same reason," said Andrew Seidel, attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

    The organization has filed a complaint against Winter Garden and the mayor. The complaint states government cannot force citizens to stand for the pledge and "local governments should not be in the business of writing and saying prayers."

    Winter Garden leaders are now considering whether they need to make changes with the way meetings begin.

    "We're hoping to by the next meeting have a recommendation for our commission on how to proceed going forward," said Winter Garden City Manager Michael Bollhoefer.

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