Knox County Commission chairman defends pre-meeting prayers

Knox County Commission chairman defends pre-meeting prayers

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"It's interesting that we're talking about this on Independence Day because we're talking about freedom of religion," Commission Chairman Mike Hammond said. "It's interesting that we're talking about this on Independence Day because we're talking about freedom of religion," Commission Chairman Mike Hammond said.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County Commission Chairman Mike Hammond says he's not surprised a Wisconsin-based atheist group is calling for an end to commission's pre-meeting prayers.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter this week to commission requesting for the practice to stop.

Hammond notes that other county governments in Tennessee, notably Hamilton County, have received similar letters.

Knox County commissioners are considering a resolution making the prayer tradition an official policy.

As for the possibility of facing a lawsuit, Hammond says that's why the county has a legal department.

"It's interesting that we're talking about this on Independence Day because we're talking about freedom of religion," Hammond said. "Since 1789, Congress has opened with prayer. They have chaplains on duty that do that. And it seems to me that if Congress can open with prayer since 1789, why can't the Knox County  Commission?"

Last week, commission delayed the vote on the prayer policy to give the public more time to weigh in.

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