Here is some background for those who are unfamiliar with this particular battle for Separation of Church and State. In my area, the County Commission has had a tradition of starting each public meeting with a very Christian prayer.
A couple of my acquaintances, members of my Freethought Association group, tried to get the Commission to do away with this tradition and replace it with a more inclusive moment of silence. The Commission refused, so my friends filed a lawsuit against the County. In response, the Commission decided to change the rules of the Invocation, making it not members of the County Commission leading the prayers, but members of the religious communities in this county.
Of course, it still doesn't address the problem with leading county business in a religious manner. As a way of including the non-religious in this matter, one of my friends (who is an ordained minister) applied for the opportunity to give the Invocation. So far, he has been refused on the grounds that he does not "have tax-exempt status as a religious institution."
Here is a blog by the Friendly Atheist on this matter. He lays it all out so simply.
Clearly, it is the mission of the County Commission to keep a religious element to the Invocation, even though it is government business that affects all citizens of the county.
Do you agree with the Commission that an invocation should be of a religious nature? If so, why?
For those who felt that the Commission was only reflecting the wishes of the majority, do you see now how this practice could be considered discriminatory against atheists, practitioners of beliefs that do not get tax-exempt status (Pagans and Wiccans come to mind, here), and the non-religious?Answer Question
The county commission has no business officially starting a meeting with prayer. If a few of them would like to meet in the hall, or in another room, before the meeting & pray together, then that would be their right. But, it is IMO, illegal to start a gov meeting with a prayer.
Answer by 3libras at 6:38 PM on Mar. 9, 2013
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