This past Tuesday night, I had the distinct honor and privilege of leading the opening prayer for the benefit of the assembled legislative body--the school board--- at our regular monthly meeting.
Our board has a standing tradition of rotating the duty of the opening prayer/pledge of allegiance among the five board members.
Over the last year or so, we have been berated by an individual that has accused us of being non-inclusive in our prayers. This individual has also inaccurately accused us of violating the law with our opening prayer practice.
The board has discussed this issue on several occasions and the consensus is that we stick with the current practice of rotating the
duty of either bringing the opening prayer or bringing a guest to do so.
Importantly—our attorney Donna Waters stated publicly at open meetings that our current practice comports with the law and also with recent Supreme Court rulings; however, she does not guarantee that we will not invite litigation if we continue our opening prayer practice as we have been doing.
Furthermore, in an abundance of caution, she has recommended that the best way to insulate the board from litigation on this subject would be to have the board transition to a “moment of silence.”
The board heard what our attorney stated and still affirmed the intention to have individual board members make the determination about what sort of prayer we open our meetings with and which, if any, guests to invite. I agree with this opinion.
Over the last 12 months we have been very inclusive—more so than ever before! We have had poetry about geese instead of a prayer, we have had a moment of silence on multiple occasions instead of prayers, we have had a Jewish Rabbi lead our prayer, and we have also had Christian prayer. We have been inclusive; we have demonstrated tolerance and compliance with Greece V. Galloway and Marsh V. Chambers, as well as with the U. S. Constitution.
The First Amendment of the Constitution contains the free exercise clause, which precludes the government from abridging the right of a citizen to practice the free exercise of his religious belief-- Any citizen, all citizens!
In our nation, we have the freedom “of” religion, not a freedom “from” religion. We also have the freedom of speech--even (especially) political speech.
Thank God we have these freedoms!
Nowhere in the constitution is there any mention of a “wall of separation of church and state.”
Activists and others that hate religion in general and Christians and Jews in particular-- claim there is a “freedom from religion.” They ignore the actual Constitution and simply hang on one badly faulted interpretation of a friendly letter to a Baptist group by an aging President as the basis for this incorrect belief.
Why do we allow a militant, vocal, yet minuscule minority opinion to sway us so often in this nation on this issue? Why?