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KENAI (AP) — A Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member is challenging a clause in a legal nonprofit’s contract in order to defend the borough in an ongoing lawsuit over the assembly’s invocation policy.
Assembly member Willy Dunne, of Homer, filed a civil complaint on Thursday asking for a temporary injunction that would allow him to publish an op-ed in local newspapers supporting an ordinance that would remove prayer from the beginning of assembly meetings, The Peninsula Clarion reported Monday.
Policy currently allows invocations from members of religious organizations that have established local presences and regular meetings. Chaplains serving organizations like fire departments and hospitals can also give invocations.
Dunne wants to publish the opinion piece, which explains his reasoning behind introducing the ordinance, before a March 21 hearing on the matter.
Borough Attorney Colette Thompson told him that Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit, doesn’t approve of Dunne’s piece and that publishing it would violate a contract the borough holds with the group.
The Alliance Defending Freedom has agreed to represent the borough against a lawsuit filed in December by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska. The lawsuit claims the borough’s invocation policy is unconstitutional.
Since the lawsuit was filed, assembly members have to go through the borough and be approved by Alliance Defending Freedom before communicating with the media. A clause in the borough’s contract with the group requires the borough not to make any public statements without approval.
John McKay of Anchorage, Dunne’s attorney, said the complaint is asking for a temporary injunction and a hearing to clarify whether the alliance contract only applies to the borough administration or whether it also applies to elected officials on the assembly.
"Our main focus is that (Dunne) and other assembly members have the right to speak out on issues that are of importance to their community," he said.