Should governments hold prayers before or during public meetings?
History is against government prayer
Gaylor is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Government prayer serves no purpose other than to alienate 62 million nonreligious Americans. It is supremely pointless. Officials who wish to pray should do so on their own time, not schedule prayers on taxpayers’ time.
Members of our government possess, as Alexander Hamilton wrote, “no particle of spiritual jurisdiction.” We the people grant our representatives authority to run a secular government, not a Sunday school.
Strangely, my opponent relies on practices that predate the First Amendment separation of state and church by some 15 years. And he well knows that a long history does not make this or any other practice constitutional. Otherwise our society would be segregated and women could not vote. Thomas Paine wrote, “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it the superficial appearance of being right,” and that’s all government prayer can claim, superficiality.
History is not on my opponent’s side. When prayer was proposed at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the Founders thought it so unimportant that they ignored the proposal — not even putting it up for a vote. Surely if the Founders did not need prayer to write the document that founded our nation, local governments can conduct their business without prayer as well.
Where will anti-religion agenda end?
Staver is chairman of Liberty Counsel and vice president of Liberty University.
For nearly 200 years, all three branches of government upheld the First Amendment right of prayer, even in public meetings and by public officials. But even as we acknowledge the foundation upon which this nation was formed, let’s also contemplate what America would look like if organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation get their way. I have seen their future.
In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union unsuccessfully attempted to intimidate the Santa Rosa County, Fla., school district into banning employees from praying over their meals, even going so far as to try and stop an employee from asking her husband to bless the meal for a private gathering in a neighboring county. They were unsuccessful in their goal because Liberty Counsel defended the employees.
Groups such as ACLU and FFRF go after local school boards and county commissioners with threats of expensive lawsuits in hopes of laying the groundwork to eradicate all recognition of God or religious identification on public property or by government officials.
Where will it stop? Will crosses and stars of David be erased from the tombstones in military cemeteries? The ACLU has been fighting for years to remove a memorial cross. Will courts be forbidden from opening with, “God save this honorable court?” Will the president be forbidden from saying, “God bless the United States of America?”
The Declaration of Independence declares “our Creator” endowed us with unalienable rights. Will those who argue against the freedom to publicly acknowledge God want to ban this founding document? No doubt some would do just that.
Even the least religious among the Founders, Benjamin Franklin, declared “that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” Like Franklin, I think not.