Council should move to moment of silence

So a satanist might give the invocation at an upcoming Grand Junction City Council meeting.

The issue was unresolved heading into the weekend, but the mere possibility of such a spectacle is a result of bad policy that needs to change.

The council — or any governmental body for that matter — should put an end to the tradition of prayer at government functions where the people’s business is conducted.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that everyone in the United States has the right to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all.

The country’s founders felt that the best way to protect religious liberty was to keep the government out of religion. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was intended to prevent any governmental endorsement or support of religion.

Over the years, however, the U.S. Supreme Court has carved out an exception for legislative prayer— with a caveat. If a government entity allows one form of prayer, it must allow all — a nod to the free exercise of religion without endorsing a particular faith.

That means anyone — including satanists, atheists or members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — must be given an opportunity to say the opening prayer before a council meeting. Of course the council could drop the prayer altogether or substitute a moment of silence, which we endorse.

Some people feel that prayer lends gravity to public proceedings. We take an opposite view. The divine belongs in houses of prayer, not in the crude, sausague-making apparatus of governance. We think mixing religion with the function of the state cheapens the ethereal and exposes the fumblings of man and his political craft.

But for those who wish to invoke a higher power to guide the fractious business of governing, a moment of silence allows for that in the most unobtrusive way. A moment of silence offends no one and invites all citizens to participate in their own way.

Curiously, for the most fervent Christians, even this “compromise” is a step beyond what Jesus himself advised.

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:5-13)

The Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers are sure to take some heat for pressing this issue. But they’re simply trying to make local elected officials live up to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

We all intersect with government at some point. Why should attending a council meeting for a hearing on something as mundane as a variance involve articles of faith?


COMMENTS

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Thank you, Daily Sentinel, for reinforcing WCAF’s position. We’re willing to take the heat if it means City Council stops violating the Constitution and assures they don’t offend any citizens at their public meetings any more.

Here is what I posted on the Mesa County Patriots’ Facebook page:
It would seem that Landman and the Sentinel are incorrect in the law!
My main objection is that they cutesily pretend not to know that when spouting their manipulative sophistry.
“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government.” ~ Justice Anthony M. Kennedy
The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S., 12-696 (2014), which interested persons can read for themselves at https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/572/12-696.
Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion is at https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/572/12-696/opinion3.html.
Clarence Thomas concurred at https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/572/12-696/concur5.html
Samuel Alito concurred at https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/572/12-696/concur4.html
Stephen G. Breyer dissented at https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/572/12-696/dissent6.html
Elena Kagan dissented at https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/572/12-696/dissent7.html.

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