My Take: Town prayers need less Jesus, more Krishna

0

At first glance, it would seem that the town of Greece, New York, has been brazenly violating the First Amendment. For roughly a decade, it invited local Christians — and only Christians — to offer prayers opening its Town Board meetings.


Two non-Christian town residents — Susan Galloway (who is Jewish) and Linda Stephens (who is an atheist) — objected, arguing that this practice violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, finding that the town’s practice of repeatedly inviting Christians to offer demonstrably Christian prayers amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.

As Town of Greece v. Galloway made its way through the courts, the town, represented by the Arizona-based (and faith-based) nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that the founders prayed in public, and members of the U.S. Congress continue to do so today. To side with Galloway and Stephens, therefore, is to determine that members of the House and Senate have been violating the constitution for over two centuries.

Ayesha Khan, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represents Galloway and Stephens in the lawsuit, said in a statement that “legislative bodies should focus on serving the community and stay out of the business of promoting religion.”

That is unlikely to happen, since there is, as Alliance Defending Freedom has argued, an “unambiguous and unbroken history” of prayer in government bodies in the United States. But there is an equally long history of ensuring that these prayers are, as Americans United has observed, “inclusive and non-sectarian.” And those in Greece were neither.

Written By: Stephen Prothero
continue to source article at religion.blogs.cnn.com

NO COMMENTS

  1. Here is an interesting alternative by a state representative from Arizona:

    The Phoenix New Times reports that Mendez, who is an atheist, changed the course of the event held prior to the House of Representatives’ afternoon session. He asked lawmakers to refrain from bowing their heads and instead to view their surroundings.

    “Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads,” Mendez said, according to the Phoenix New Times. “I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state. Mendez also invoked the words of Dr. Carl Sagan, the late astronomer whose words on atheism have lasted for decades. “Carl Sagan once wrote, ‘For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love,’” Mendez said Tuesday.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/juan-mendez-carl-sagan_n_3316864.html

Leave a Reply