Skip to comments.Greece, NY Enters Debate on Public Prayer
Posted on 11/05/2013 5:37:38 AM PST by Kaslin
he Supreme Court will hear arguments this week about prayers in public life, this latest deliberation revolving around a case from Greece, N.Y., and the recitation of prayers during town board meetings. The board used to begin each of its meetings with a moment of silence. When that moment of silence was replaced by spoken prayers, they turned out to be overwhelmingly Christian, and a suit was filed. Last year a federal appeals court ruled, according to The Washington Post, "...that such a 'steady drumbeat' of Christian invocations violates the Constitution's prohibition against government endorsement of religion."
The Court, not to mention the country, has long struggled with the First Amendment, which simultaneously prohibits Congress from establishing an official state religion, while protecting its "free exercise."
In one of its more precise cases about government and religion, a majority ruled in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) that any government connection to religion must have a "secular legislative purpose," must not have the "primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion" and must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.
In Greece, N.Y., in response to the court ruling, the town board made an attempt to solicit other faiths for invocations -- the local chairman of the Baha'i congregation concluded his prayer with "Allah-u-Abha," a Jewish prayer ended with "the songs of David, your servant" and a Wiccan priestess prayed to Athena and Apollo. Still, the prayers were mostly Christian.
The two women who filed suit, Susan Galloway (described by the Post as "uncomfortable with the sectarian prayers") and Linda Stephens, "an atheist," objected to sitting through the faith-based invocations. The women, represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, claim in their legal brief that prayers before legislative bodies are required to be nonsectarian, which those in Greece, N.Y., clearly were not.
According to the Post, Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit conceded that the town board had made an effort to diversify their invocations, but that "By not reaching out to a more diverse group of prayer-givers or making clear that the prayers did not represent the town's beliefs, the judges found, 'the town's prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint.'"
The desire by the faithful, especially Christians, to see their faith expressed in the public square has been a part of America's "civil religion" since the founding of the country. The idea that America is especially chosen by God for some purpose greater than those of any other nation is a type of idolatry that violates the very Scripture in which Christians claim to believe. Isaiah puts it succinctly as to how God views nations: "Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing (Isaiah 40:17)." One must conclude from this passage that "all" includes the United States.
During the recent partial government shutdown, Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black received national attention when he used his opening prayer to chastise lawmakers, saying, "Enough is enough." Black asked God to "Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness." It was fine oratory, but the political devils triumphed, and the shutdown continued until the president and congressional Democrats used their secular powers to prevail.
That is the point, isn't it? What do these public prayers accomplish? How does tossing in minority faiths advance a kingdom Christians believe their Leader taught is "not of this world"?
If individual members of the Greece, N.Y. town board, or any other legislative body, wish to pray silently to their God before their meetings, no law or court decision prohibits them from doing so. Why would God be more impressed and more likely to respond to a public prayer than to a private one? Indeed, Jesus commanded His followers: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:6).
That seems more definitive than any ruling by the Supreme Court.
In a Christian culture it should not even rise to the level of comment that most prayers would be Christian in nature.
The most fair system would be a random selection of available speakers. Any system imposing an appearance far above a group’s representation in the population would be the state imposition of unwarranted presence, and that would be state preference of one group over another.
Again, given that it is a Christian culture it should not surprise that most prayers are Christian and that prayers are scheduled.
That law will be written in a book under sec x, paragraph y etc. .. with an accompanying date and reference of case.
There's an older book that men haggled over and came to adopt as law and oft times is re-visited to maintain it's position and power.
Unless the newer law supercedes the older ... there should be no discussion.
Cal Thomas’ comments are incredibly shallow, both biblically and intellectually.
I can’t believe he’s using the “go into your closet” argument.
Jesus prayed in public.
Peter prayed in public.
Paul prayed in public.
Solomon prayed in public.
Worship throughout the bible includes public prayer.
The list goes on and on.
Therefore, Jesus’ words about private prayer have a different meaning than Thomas and other shallow commentators place on them.
Jesus was referring to a specific situation, the whole context being:
“Mt 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Leading that section is this: “1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “
So, the prohibition is against prayer that has nothing to do with contacting God and everything to do with narcissism and personal gain....hypocrisy.
Here are 2 examples of Jesus engaging in public prayer:
Mt 19: 13 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
Lk 3: 21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” 23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
I agree. As I copy-pasted
Mt 6:5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.