Deltona commissioner asked to stop reading Bible verses at meetings

Other commissioners say it's his First Amendment right

DELTONA, Fla. – Residents and a separation of church and state group recently asked a Deltona commissioner to stop reading Bible verses at city meetings.

"I'm not trying to convert anyone. I'm not trying to force religion down anyone's throats," said Christopher Alcantara.

City Commissioner Alcantara said reading scripture has been part of his routine since taking office in November.

"When I see something that talks to my heart and I feel that others should hear it, I share it in meeting. I don't expound on it. I just read it and move on," he said.

A Deltona resident sent an email June 20 to the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, complaining that Alcantara reading from the Bible, has nothing to do with the city's agenda.

"I personally believe this was politically motivated because the same individual has criticized me since I got elected. I've been doing it since November but now he wants to complain about it because, in my opinion, the others things haven't really stuck," said Alcantara.

The city received a letter from AU, requesting Alcantara to stop citing scriptures and to respond within 30 days on how it'll address the issue.

“We write to inform you that government officials reading from the Bible or offering other proselytizing comments to the audience during a governmental meeting violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and to ask that Commissioner Alcantara stop doing this,” read the letter from Americans United.

"When I saw it, I kind of, to be honest, chuckled. I didn't think much of it," Alcantara said.

The city ended up defending Alcantara. In a letter to AU, it stated the commissioner is not asking for participation, rather exercising his First Amendment right.

"Engaging in the recitation of Biblical verse during a public meeting is not in and of itself enough for an Establishment Clause violation," according to the letter from the city.

"I'm not doing this for man. I'm doing this for God. Do I listen to man or do I listen to what God put in my heart? I'm going to listen to what God put in my heart to do," said Alcantara.

File: Reaction to letter from Deltona commissioners

File: Americans United letter to Deltona

News 6 called the resident who filed the complaint, but he has not responded.