I am not against prayer. With that said, the County Commission appears to be knowingly violating separation of church and state that could result in a lawsuit.
I would hope that the County Commission can figure out a legal alternative to open prayer. If they can’t and the county is sued and loses, I think all County Commissioners participating in violation of the law be responsible for any and all cost involved.
It’s not the taxpayers knowingly breaking the law.
John C. Schultz
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Mr. Schultz, unfortunately, most people have no idea what "separation of church and state" actually means. Unless and until the County Commission requires all of us to become members of one specific religion--Baptist, Unitarian, Church of Christ, Seventh Day Adventist, etc.--there is no violation of separation of church and state by saying a prayer before meetings.
The "separation of church and state" simply means that the U.S. government can never establish a mandated church, as in the established Church of England, which pushed the Brownists, Separatists, and Puritans to flee religious persecution in their own lands in search of freedom "of" religion--not freedom "from" religion--in this land.
Please spend some time at the website of the U.S. Office of the Chaplain of the Congress, and the Office of the Chaplain of the Senate, both established by our founding fathers in 1789 under Article VIII, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, both leading our U.S. federal officials in prayers before official government sessions held in U.S. federal buildings and at other events for some 223 years. The history of religion and prayer in this nation shown there is enlightening.
It is simply time that someone brought those historical facts to the attention of Freedom From Religion and others who try to manipulate and misinterpret the words "separation of church and state" through revisionist history.
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I don't think people understand what it means to separate the church and the state. Let's look first at how this came about. When the U.S. sprang forth from battle with the British, the majority of countries were ruled by a monarch and a religion. The English had the King and the Anglican Church. The Spanish had the Catholic Church. No one could argue against those churches, and their directives were as good as law in those countries.
So when the founding fathers decided to specify a separation of the church and state, they meant to say that a specific church could not rule the country. The churches - Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or what have you - could not dictate laws applicable to the entire nation. The founding fathers wanted to protect the people from religious edicts and the corruption inherent with an unquestionable religious ruling class.
Here's what the fathers did not mean. They did not mean that we could not pray in public, in the schools, or in government meetings. The very fact that we would try to separate religious morals from the state is ridiculous. Why can't a leader pray to start a government meeting? Who is he oppressing? What law is he passing that will oppress people due to its religious backbone?
Next argument. If you want to separate church and state completely, including prayers at state meetings, we should also have to discern the reasons for morality rulings. If we condemn a man for murder, then we have to do so with no religious moral convictions. Judges should not be allowed to frequent churches or read religious texts. The jury could only be made up of atheists. Atheism would have to be the ruling party, just to make sure the church and it's horrible lessons stay apart from our beautiful, clean government.
In fact, let's completely separate church and state. Since this country is made up of mostly religious individuals (Jews, Christians, and Muslims), we need to recruit non-citizens to run our government. We need to find people from remote villages in other countries who have never heard of any of the major Western religions. That'll do the trick.
Here's the summary. Church and state cannot be completely separated. Religious morality defines our culture, and the world for that matter. The Judeo-Christian beliefs and morality make up a major part of most country's laws. As long as a church does not assume control of the government, we'll be okay.
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The Constitution doesn’t state that we are to be protected from religion. It states in the First Amendment: “ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.” So basically the Commission can’t establish their religion as the only lawful religion, but likewise, they cannot, as a body, restrict the prayer of an individual that is duly recognized by the chair. So if the chair recognizes someone who prays, we cannot and should not be allowed to prohibit the free exercise of their religion or abridge their freedom of speech.
Prayer at a government meeting doesn’t hurt anyone. I applaud anyone, of any religion, for not cowing to the pressure to conform to societal expectations that we all be atheists.
Commission members – continue to exercise your right to pray. I applaud you for it.
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Actually the Supreme Court has issued a decision on prayer at a public meeting. It was Marsh vs. Chambers back in 1983. The court ruled that the hiring of a chaplain with taxpayer money who also issued a prayer before a legislative meeting was not a violation of the First Amendment. The issue of prayer prior to a public meeting has not been taken up by the Supreme Court since and is a separate argument from the separation of church and state.
This is some of the text of the ruling by the Supreme Court in that case: "The opening of sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country. From colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom."
It's going to be hard to backup the claim that its a violation of church and state when Congress and the Supreme Court both open session with a prayer.
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Matthew 6:5-6: "When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
These verses tell me that to pray in public is not what the Bible tells us to do.
Makes one wonder if it is to pray to God, or be "seen by men" to get the Christian vote. Those who use the church to gain public office are the biggest hypocrites on this earth.
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This was cited Jan. 18, 2012 from municipalminute.com. The precedent of the following cases would support that the county would not be in violation if they are nondenominational in their opening prayer and the county would be in violation if they support a specific denomination in their opening prayer.
"The U.S. Supreme Court passed on the opportunity to hear two cases involving prayers at government meetings. The first case, Forsyth County, N.C., v. Joyner, et al. (11-546), involved prayers with repeated references to Jesus Christ and to Christian themes at the twice-a-month public meetings of the County Board of Commissioners. The second, Indian River School District, et al., v. Doe, et al. (11-569), involved a regular practice of a School District Board to open its monthly meetings with one of its members reciting a religious invocation. The Fourth Circuit Court, in the Forsyth County case, and the Third Circuit, in the Indian River S.D. case, had ruled that both religious practices were unconstitutional, although opening the meeting with a nondenominational prayer was acceptable."