Ruminations of the Easily Amused- Religious News Lately - Aug 8 2014Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


Ruminations of the Easily Amused- Religious News Lately - Aug 8 2014

8 August 2014 at 4:28:15 PM

I like the expression that the answer to bad speech is more speech. Basically, this principle exists with regard to religious statues, prayers, giveaways, ie, if a govenment entity wants to put up, say, a 10 commmandments monument, it must also accomodate those of different religions or non-religious entities. 

First,the Supreme Court ruled that prayers are acceptable at government meetings if a government entity chooses to do them. The Town of Greece New York vs Galloway et al case is speaking specifically about instances, not where elected officials are doing an invocation but where the community comes in to stand before the elected officials and talk. Some interesting points in this decision. The invocation is deemed as "legislative prayer". 

"Absent a pattern of prayers that over time denigrate, prosleytize, or betray an impermissible government purpose, a challenge based solely on the content of a particular prayer will not likely estalish a constitutional violation. ... so long as the town maintains a policy of nondiscrimination, the Constitution does not require it to search beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to achieve religious balancing..both the setting in which the prayer arises and the audience to whom it is directed shows that the town is not coercing its citizens to engage in an religous observance. The prayer opportunity is evaluated against the backdrop of a historical practice showing that prayer ahs become part of the Nation's heritage and tradition. It is presumed that the reasonable observer is acquainted with this tradition and understands that its purposes are to lend gravity to public proceedings and to acknowledge the place religion holds in the lives of many private citizens. Furthermore, the principal audience for these invocations is not the public, but the lawmakers themselves. And those lawmakers did not direct the public to participate, single out dissidents for opprobium, or indicate that their decisions might be influenced by a persons acquiesence in the prayer opportunity. Respondents claim that the prayers gave them offense but offense does not equate to coercion. ... the record here does not suggest that citizens are dissuaded from leaving the meeting room during the prayer, arriving late or making a later protest. That the prayer in Greece is delivered during the opening ceremonial portion of the town's meeting, not the policymaking portion, also suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and their institutions, not to exclude or coerce nonbelievers..... In the 1850's the judiciary committee in both the House and Senate reevaluated the practice of official chaplaincies after receiving petitions to abolish the office. The committees concluded that the office posed no threat of an establishment because lawmakers were not compelled to attend the daily prayer. .. no faith was excluded by law nor any favored... the Court (did not) imply the rule that prayer violates the Establishment Clause any time it is given in the name of a figure deified by only one faith or creed.. To the contrary, the Court instructed that the "content of the prayer is not of concern to judges" provided there is no indication that the prayer opportunity has been exploited to proslytize or advance any one or to disparagge any other, faith or belief. ... It would be but a few steps removed from that prohibition for legislatures to require chaplains to redact the religious content from their message in order to make it acceptable for the public sphere...Because it is unlikely that prayer will be inclusive beyond dispute, it would be unwise to adopt what respondents think is the next best option; permitting those reilgious words and only those words, that are acceptable to the majority, even if they will exclude some... The First Amendment is not a majority rule and government may not seek to define permissible categories of religious speech. Once it invites prayer into the public sphere, government must permit a prayer giver to address his or her own God or gods as conscience dictates, unfettered by what an administrator or judge considers to be nonsectarian.... Prayer that is solemn and respectful in tone, that invites lawmakers to reflect upon shared ideals and common ends before they embark on the fractious business of governing serves that legitimate function."

This is why you now see both believers and unbelievers, but all citizens, going before government and offering up invocations. 

I was raised as an old timey Southern Baptist with separation of church and state ideals. I like this article about what constitutes *ceremonial prayer*.  You'll note if you read the entire article that he indicates that there are christians who also object to being part of this. 

Justice Kennedy may be well-versed in the nature of constitutional law, but his judicial opinion reflects limited awareness of the nature of prayer. As an old-timey Baptist I don’t put much stock in “ceremonial” prayer. There may be government-centered ceremonies where the deity is addressed in various forms, but let’s not stoop to calling it prayer. Prayer is talking to God, not to the Emperor, the President, the Congress, political parties, county commissioners or people gathered for hearings about potholes, zoning or sanitation. They may all need prayer, but certainly not the ceremonial kind.

At its depth, prayer is anything but ceremonial; it burns in the soul, dances in the feet, erupts from the gut, cries out against injustice and exposes the struggles of the heart. But the five supporting justices didn’t see it that way. Rather, Justice Kennedy insisted, “The inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers.”

No, no, Mr. Justice. Government use of prayer to tout privileged “religious leaders” or their “institutions” trivializes faith’s most wondrous connection: a confrontation with the Divine. In fact, this prayer case and others like it point to a great failure of many government officials and religious leaders alike. In protecting a deity-specific, often majoritarian Christian approach to state-based prayer, we sacrifice robust spirituality for “ceremonial” rhetoric, imposed on a governmentally “mixed multitude” of persons representing various religious traditions or none at all. As the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty noted in its friend-of-the-court, or amicus, brief supporting the plaintiffs, “The First Amendment protects a person’s right to join a congregation that fits his or her beliefs and traditions, and not to join a government-created congregation that does not.”

Or how about a Jew? 

More on ceremonial prayer from Christian Century-the dissent from Justice Kagan.

If you haven't read Justice Kagan's dissent to the Supreme Court's pro-governmental-prayer decisionin Town of Greece v. Galloway, you should. Here's a taste: 

Let’s say that a Muslim citizen of Greece goes before the Board to share her views on policy or request some permit... But just before she gets to say her piece, a minister deputized by the Town asks her to pray “in the name of God’s only son Jesus Christ.” App. 99a.

She must think—it is hardly paranoia, but only the truth—that Christian worship has become entwined with local governance. And now she faces a choice—to pray alongside the majority as one of that group or somehow to register her deeply felt difference. She is a strong person, but that is no easy call—especially given that the room is small and her every action (or inaction) will be noticed. She does not wish to be rude to her neighbors, nor does she wish to aggravate the Board members whom she will soon be trying to persuade.

And we are really only talking about *ceremonial* prayer, that is essentially meaningless, does not require anyone to be part of it. Why is this?

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy claimed that prayer (even explicitly Christian prayer) is not really religious; it is just ceremonial. It is merely a tradition and has no real religious purpose. That’s funny, because there seems to be a whole lot of religious people who seem to care an awful lot about a merely ceremonial prayer. If these prayers are not an explicit endorsement of religion, then why does it even matter at all? Why are religious believers so hell bent on putting these prayers before government meetings and why are non-Christians fighting against prayers that don’t really mean anything at all? Personally, I’m surprised more fundamentalists aren’t offended by Justice Kennedy’s claim that these prayers are merely “ceremonial.” Isn’t that blasphemy? Keep in mind that fundamentalist Christians were not shy about their outrage even toward Jesus’s wife, Sarah Palin when she equated Baptism with torture. Interestingly enough, she did it for a sound-byte and doesn’t even agree with her own statement. Kennedy does stand behind his view that pray before government meetings aren’t really religious. Of course, if prayers before meetings were religious, then Kennedy would have to concede that they violate the Establishment Clause and he would be forced to have ruled against these prayers. But Kennedy is an old fashioned guy who likes tradition. He doesn’t see the harm in it, so he would rather find some way of just keeping the “ceremonial” tradition. Unfortunately, there is harm in this type of thing. These types of prayers are a way to exclude people and to make them feel like outsiders to their own government. If I had a grievance that I wanted to take up with this legislative body, this type of prayer would set the tone against me right from the start because I am not a Christian. This type of prayer turns our legislatures into Christian-only churches where other people are allowed, but not really welcome. It is also another huge crack in the Jeffersonian Wall of Church/State Separation. 

There is a second case that is winding through the courts that involves government officials doing the invocation. In Pittsylvania, VA, a judge has barred the government entities from opening meetings with prayers associated with any one religion.  Why is this different than the Town of Greece example above?

In the Town of Greece case, the town government had no role in determining the content of opening prayers at its board meetings. The Pittsylvania County board dictated the content of prayers opening its meetings, the judge said.

"Further, because the Pittsylvania County Board members themselves served as prayer providers, persons of other faith traditions had no opportunity to offer invocations," Urbanski wrote.

Board members also directed citizens attending the meetings to participate in the prayers by asking them to stand, he said.

Religious sectarian monuments on government grounds. Ie, if you can have 10 commandments, then you need to have other viewpoints as well. The Satanists want to put up a statue in Oklahoma. 

One government entity in Alabama decided to put up "In God We Trust" as a plaque on the government building. now other citizens want them to allow other privately funded displays. 

Now, Pagans, Universalists and atheists want to propose their own privately-funded displays.

The Mobile Atheist Community would like to see a display that reads "in reason we trust," Universalists want one that says "coexist" and Pagans are lobbying for "in Goddess/es we trust," according to the organizers.

I actually really like this inclusiveness. Once you open the door for one particular religion, you have to include everybody! 

Diner's "Praying in Public" discount is a civil rights violation.

The customers who shared their ticket with the world also said that their waitress had told them, “Just so you know, we gave you a 15 percent discount for praying.” Not for “being grateful” or “enjoying your meal” or “saying nice things to the cook.” Of course, for all the restaurant owner knew, customers could be praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which should always be done before eating pasta in any form.

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