The mayor of Winter Garden, Fla. on Thursday had a man removed from a City Commission meeting after he refused to stand during an opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mayor John Rees asked meeting attendees to stand for an invocation, and specifically waited for Joseph Richardson to rise, according to video published by the Orlando Sentinel.
“I don’t have to,” Richardson said, refusing to get up from his seat.
Commissioner Bobby Olszewski proceeded to recite the invocation.
“We thank you for allowing us to be in a country where we’re free to believe and think and pray,” he said.
Rees asked Richardson to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, and he again refused. The mayor then asked police to remove Richardson from the meeting during the pledge, according to the video.
Rees told the Orlando Sentinel that he felt Richardson’s refusal to stand during the pledge was disrespectful to American troops.
“I just said, ‘Either stand or go in the hallway.’ He wouldn’t,” Rees said.
A spokesman for the ACLU told the Sentinel that people are not required to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
According to the Sentinel, Richardson has been asking the city of Winter Garden to change its invocation policy and has asked to be able to lead the invocation himself. Rees said that Richardson only comes to meetings for this reason.
“He doesn’t come to the meetings because he cares about the city,” he told the Sentinel.
Watch the video, courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel: