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Posted: September 02, 2014

Man kicked out of meeting for not standing during Pledge

Jonathan Phillips
American flags are moved into piles by a machine after they are cut to the correct size at U.S. Flag Makers in Marietta on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

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            Man kicked out of meeting for not standing during Pledge
American flags are moved into piles by a machine after they are cut to the correct size at U.S. Flag Makers in Marietta on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

By WFTV - Orlando

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. —

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a complaint against the city of Winter Garden after the mayor kicked a man out of a public meeting because he refused to stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance.

WFTV published video of the incident, which happened at the August 27 city commission meeting in Winter Garden.

"Waiting for everyone to rise," Mayor John Rees said.

"Sorry, are you waiting for me?" the man said. "I don't have to."

The Orlando Sentinel reported that "the man was identified by City Manager Mike Bollhoefer as Joseph Richardson, 51, who has repeatedly asked the city to change its invocation policy."

The mayor reportedly told Richardson he was being disrespectful to the troops.

"You have one of two choices, sir. You may stand up for the pledge, you don't have to say it, but please stand," Rees said.

When Richardson refused, police escorted him out of the meeting.

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"He doesn't stand for the invocation because he's not religious and he doesn't stand for the Pledge of Allegiance for the same reason," said Andrew Seidel, attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The organization has filed a complaint against Winter Garden and the mayor. The complaint states government cannot force citizens to stand for the pledge and "local governments should not be in the business of writing and saying prayers."

Winter Garden leaders are now considering whether they need to make changes with the way meetings begin.

"We're hoping to by the next meeting have a recommendation for our commission on how to proceed going forward," said Winter Garden City Manager Michael Bollhoefer.