May 21, 2013

US Supreme Court takes up issue of using prayers to open city council meetings

We have to say this has always been a pet peeve of ours among the many "practices", informal or otherwise, that Lakewood uses in its meetings. Hopefully this "practice" will soon go away as well. We have never understood why people insist on injecting their particular brand of religion into government. I say lets open with the pledge of allegiance (to the USA of course). That I support. But paying homage to one "brand" or "formulation" of religion? No thanks. Go to church and pray 12 times a week. Pray at home before the meeting. Pray to yourself before the meeting starts. Hell sit in a group in the audience and pray silently while holding hands up in the air. But don't make me have to sit there and listen to your version of a prayer recited in my face and sanctioned (hell even promoted) by the city council. And its televised no less (while public comments are not...hmm how convenient). This is nothing more than city council member pandering to their Christian religious bases (the same 2500 people that vote for them every time). The "open a government meeting with a prayer" routine is much more offensive and much more violative than prayer in schools as its literally the government itself promoting religion, directly and in your face, in conjunction with the governmental legislative process. This is why there are so many problems with the new governments in Egypt, Libya and Iraq; the "religious majority" wants to shut the religious minority out of a say in their own government altogether. Its a huge problem. Its why government needs to remain secular and religion should not become or "run" government. Also lets not get into the whole "religious history" of the founding fathers. Suffice it to say most did not practice "today's version of evangelical Christianity". But I'll leave that for the "revisionist" history writers.

The US Supreme Court sadly decided this was not a problem in May 2014.

As was aptly stated abut this matter recently in the NY Times:

Legislative Prayer

The case concerning prayers, Town of Greece v. Galloway, No. 12-696, came from Greece, a town near Rochester. For more than a decade starting in 1999, the town board began its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month.” Town officials said that members of all faiths and atheists were welcome to give the opening prayer. In practice, the federal appeals court in New York said, almost all of the chaplains were Christian. “A substantial majority of the prayers in the record contained uniquely Christian language,” Judge Guido Calabresi wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. “Roughly two-thirds contained references to ‘Jesus Christ,’ ‘Jesus,’ ‘Your Son’ or the ‘Holy Spirit.'” Two town residents sued, saying the prayers ran afoul of the First Amendment’s prohibition of the government establishment of religion. The appeals court agreed. “The town’s prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint,” Judge Calabresi wrote.

In 1983, in Marsh v. Chambers, the Supreme Court upheld the Nebraska Legislature’s practice of opening its legislative sessions with an invocation from a paid Presbyterian minister, saying that such ceremonies were “deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.” David Cortman, a lawyer for the town, said its practices were consistent with that tradition. “Americans today should be as free as the founders were to pray,” he said in a statement. “The founders prayed while drafting our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.” (LAAG Editor: Perhaps (I was not there) but did they pray openly as an official start to the meeting or silently? Which religion? Also note this was BEFORE the first amendment was finalized and adopted and interpreted; perhaps the prayer gave them the inspiration to have the first amendment leave the prayer out?; also keep in mind these are the same guys that owned slaves yet wrote "...all men are created equal..." etc.) The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the group behind the lawsuit, said the Supreme Court should bar prayers in governmental settings like town meetings. “A town council meeting isn’t a church service, and it shouldn’t seem like one,” he said in a statement. “Government can’t serve everyone in the community when it endorses one faith over others. That sends the clear message that some are second-class citizens based on what they believe about religion.”

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