Winter Garden leaders change policy of prayer, Pledge of Allegiance at meetings

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. — The city of Winter Garden changed its policy for prayer and saying the Pledge of Allegiance at public meetings after a man refused to stand during the pledge and was asked to leave.

The mayor asked the police chief to escort the man outside after commissioners said a prayer and the pledge last week.

City leaders had three options on the table: to replace prayer with a moment of silence, open up prayer to all denominations, or eliminate prayer and the pledge all together.

On Friday, they voted 3-2 to replace prayer with a moment of silence and allow people to stay seated during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mayor John Rees faced criticism from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, an atheist group, which argues the mayor violated the man’s First Amendment rights by forcing him to leave.

Others sided with the mayor and called the man unpatriotic.

“If people don’t want to do that, they can stand outside until business of the town starts and then come back without being disruptive,” said Winter Garden resident Steve Nuzzo.