Obama administration backs prayer at local government meetings

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The Obama administration and congressional Republicans have found something to agree on: Town councils should be allowed to open their meetings with a Christian prayer.


Lawyers for the administration and two groups of lawmakers from the House and Senate, nearly all Republicans, separately made that argument in briefs to the Supreme Court this week. The high court should relax the constitutional limits on religious invocations at government meetings, they argued.

The case could lead to a major change in the law on religion that would go well beyond prayers at council meetings.

Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the town of Greece, N.Y., near Rochester, had crossed the line and violated the 1st Amendment's ban on an "establishment of religion." For years, the town supervisor had invited a local minister to deliver an opening prayer at the council's monthly meeting. Members of the audience were encouraged to join in the prayers.

Two residents, one Jewish and one an atheist, had complained for several years that the prayers were offensive and inappropriate. Until they sued in 2008, only Christians had been invited to lead the prayers.

Looked at through the eyes of a "reasonable observer," the town's prayer policy "must be viewed as an endorsement of … a Christian viewpoint," the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said in ruling against the town.

Written By: David G. Savage
continue to source article at latimes.com

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  1. I would hope you still have the right to refuse to participate in this superstitious ritual. The way to put a stop to this is to fight for the right of various odd religions to pray before council meetings, e.g. some snake handlings, some sky clad singing…

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      I would hope you still have the right to refuse to participate in this superstitious ritual. The way to put a stop to this is to fight for the right of various odd religions to pray before council meetings, e.g. some snake handlings, some sky clad singing…

      I think you misunderstand how this works in town halls that do this. It’s not that a preacher approaches the town council and asks to pray there. It’s that some members of the town council decided there’s political hay to be made by brining in a preacher and so they invite the preacher, and the intent is NOT to say “we welcome any religion here that wants to pray”. The intent is to say “You non-christians are only here in our important decision-making meeting because we deign to tolerate your presence, not because you have any right to be here, and don’t you forget it.”

    • Religious rituals involving human sacrifices among council participants might actually improve the quality of political activities.

      Everyone knows that one needs to be religious to be seriously intolerant. So I don’t think atheists should be too readily offended by various irrational religious practises. As long as they do no harm. A few targeted human sacrifices among the religiously intolerant would likely be beneficial on balance.

      Even if the politicians did nothing at all except to pray then the rest of us would be better off. The problem with politics is that politicians sometimes actually want to do thing and impose policies on the rest of us.

      In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      I would hope you still have the right to refuse to participate in this superstitious ritual. The way to put a stop to this is to fight for the right of various odd religions to pray before council meetings, e.g. some snake handlings, some sky clad singing…

  2. If prayer works, what’s the point of doing anything else except pray during council meetings (or any other meetings for that matter)?

    If it doesn’t work, what’s the point of praying at all?

    It’s got to be either one or the other.

    Has anyone ever asked any of these prayer supporters for their valuable opinion on this?

  3. In reply to #2 by aroundtown:

    Seems to me the best way to fight this is with an equal time argument. They will likely get away with this crud if they argue that what they are saying is not forced upon you, that your are not going to have to join in, so it’s okay. That is a skewed view and the best way to thwart it is to argue…

    Or..Get Richard to declare himself a god, the God of Atheism, and insist on having equal time praying to him. Start with the ten plagues science has defeated (see post 7). He doesn’t need to prove that he’s a god, no-one else does.

  4. I see a few solutions:
    1. Hold a giant pasta dinner to celebrate Pastafarianism;
    2. Demand a Zeus ritual be held (any idea what is involved?)
    3. Dress like an ancient Sumerian and sacrifice a goat (the authorities would frown on tying down your oldest son). And when everyone complains, demand, yes I say DEMAND, loudly and with all your friends there to support you, that your First Amendment rights be honored. Your religion is old and honored, and requires a goat. And when you are victorious (and how can you not be with your sacrificed goat on your side?), I’ll bring the curry, and we can have a nice dinner.

    • I’d add trying to find a Voodoo Houngan to perform the ritual of his/her choice. That’d be fun to watch in and of itselfIn reply to #6 by Daryl:

      I see a few solutions:
      1. Hold a giant pasta dinner to celebrate Pastafarianism;
      2. Demand a Zeus ritual be held (any idea what is involved?)
      3. Dress like an ancient Sumerian and sacrifice a goat (the authorities would frown on tying down your oldest son). And when everyone complains, demand, yes I…

  5. The court’s conservatives think it’s OK for government to endorse religion so long as it doesn’t force people to participate? Does that also mean not forcing participating with my tax dollars as well? I bet it doesn’t! Wisconsin is all systems GO for private school vouchers next year, and of all the schools enrolling, only one is somewhat secular. All the rest are religious schools, and they are forcing me to participate by using public tax dollars.
    The 1st amendment doesn’t say establishment of Christianity, it say religion. That means any and all religion may not be endorsed by government. Why is this so hard?

  6. Maybe the atheist should read out aloud from The Origin of Species while they are praying. The Jew meanwhile can say Jewish prayers and mayhem will ensue.

    Then maybe they will see the truth of what they are asking for.

    None of the above being appropriate for a council meeting.

  7. No official meeting of any part of government should begin with a prayer or any other kind of religious observance in a secular state – punctum!

    It is disappointing to learn that the “Obama Administration” has given ground on this principle.

  8. Let’s call the DNC and say how disappointed and angry we are and that we plan to run our own ticket in 2016. It could be a Faircloth/Stiefel ticket or a Faircloth/Silverman ticket. Not all of the 20% non-religious would vote for them, but enough to pull a Ross Perot on the Democrats. So, the Republicans get in. It appears that whoever wins, we still have to put up with the “Jesus Crap.” Maybe they’d back down.

  9. In comment 12 Cairsley states “It is disappointing to learn that the ‘Obama Administration’ has given ground on this principle.” Like all of us non-religious people I hate to see it, but I am not what you’d call disappointed. To me it is more like “suspicions confirmed.” Has Obama ever given us more than lip service? I have long been of the opinion that when it comes to theism he is more on the other side than on ours.

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