Art Rojas, Frances Jean Porgal, Lucinda Hale, and Daniel Hale v. City of Ocala, Florida et al.
In a lawsuit filed in November 2014, AHA challenged the constitutionality of a Christian prayer vigil organized, led, promoted, and sponsored by the City of Ocala and its police department. The vigil included prayer, religious songs, Christian sermons, and call-and-response style preaching. The Ocala Police Department promoted the event on their public Facebook page and with a letter on official department letterhead and cosigned by the police chief and a representative of Ocala’s New Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
In May 2018, Judge Timothy J. Corrigan ruled in favor of AHA and its clients:
“In sum, under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the government cannot initiate, organize, sponsor, or conduct a community prayer vigil…That is what happened here.”
The City has since filed a Motion to Vacate. AHA attorneys will be arguing in favor of dismissing the City’s Motion to Vacate the District Court’s ruling in a telephone hearing currently scheduled October 30, 2018. Consideration of an appeal now pending in the Eleventh Circuit has been stayed until the District Court rules on the City’s Motion to Vacate.
Selected Case Documents:
District Court (Case No. 5:14-cv-00651-TJC-PRL):
Complaint (filed November 24, 2014)
AHA’s Motion for Summary Judgment (filed September 20, 2016)
Court Order (issued May 24, 2018)
Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Defendants’ Rule 60 Motion for Relief (filed August 15, 2018)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Case No. 18-12679)
OCTOBER 31, 2018
Godless Group Defends Victory Against Ocala, FL Prayer Vigil
The city’s attempt to vacate the judgment holding city officials responsible for a blatant First Amendment violation is meritless
AUGUST 15, 2018
Atheists Urge Court to Uphold Win Against City’s Prayer Vigil
Today, attorneys for the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed an opposition to the City of Ocala’s motion to vacate the...
MAY 25, 2018
Judge Rules in Favor of Humanist Group in Case Challenging Prayer Vigil Led by Florida City Officials
Judge finds City of Ocala's prayer vigils unconstitutional.
SEPTEMBER 20, 2016
Florida City Cant Promote and Lead Prayer Vigil, Says AHA
The AHA requests summary judgment in its lawsuit challenging police dept. prayers.
OCTOBER 2, 2015
AHA Works for Humanist Invocation in U.S. Congress
Letter urges Congressional chaplains to allow a humanist chaplain to open the Congressional day with an invocation.
SEPTEMBER 1, 2015
Humanists Lawsuit Against Florida Police Department May Go Forward, Says District Judge
The AHA will continue defending the separation of church and state in Ocala, Florida.
JULY 6, 2015
Humanists Proceeding with Lawsuit Against Ocala Polices Prayer Vigil
A lawsuit challenging government-sponsored prayer in Ocala, Florida, moves forward.
NOVEMBER 25, 2014
Humanist Group Sues Ocala Police Department for Promoting Prayer
The Appignani Humanist Legal Center takes action against a police department violating the Establishment Clause.