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Back to the Invocation at County Commission meeting saga

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

Asked by jsbenkert at 6:29 PM on Mar. 9, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 37 (89,331 Credits)
Answers (15)
  • 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

  • It needs to go to court. They'll keep weaseling around it until they get their hands slapped by someone with the authority to do so.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 6:46 PM on Mar. 9, 2013

  • ITA with both np and 3libras.

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 6:58 PM on Mar. 9, 2013

  • How can any governing body have my best interest, an atheist, at heart when they can't even begin a meeting without prayinig to their one specific god?
    That goes for any non-abrahamic believers.

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 6:59 PM on Mar. 9, 2013

  • wow...not allowing those not affiliated w/ a "tax exempt" church is really gonna come back to bite them in the ass when this goes to court. it shows that they obviously want the invocation to be religious in nature. im surprised they let Baha'i do it (maybe they're Abrahamic enough?).

    Answer by okmanders at 9:25 PM on Mar. 9, 2013

  • Article IV: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

    Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

    The above is the two sections in the Constitution that mention religion. These are the ONLY two places where religion is mentioned.

    So, were they making you take a religious test at this meeting? Were they talking about making a law establishing a county wide religion?

    I don't get it? Separation of Church and state is NOT in the Constitution. It was in letters between to of our founding fathers.

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:07 PM on Mar. 10, 2013

  • That upvote was my mistake, Anon.  I clicked on it by accident. 


    Comment by jsbenkert (original poster) at 1:34 PM on Mar. 10, 2013

  • Can you defend a religious invocation prior to public business being discussed? Can you not see how it excludes members who are not participants of that particular religion? If an invocation is necessary, why must it be a prayer to a specific god in a specific manner? What is wrong with a moment of silence that allows all members to pray, if they wish, or contemplate whatever is important to them at that moment? Please defend prayer, if that is your stance. Clearly, our Founding Fathers did not wish for there to be a government religion established, and by starting government meetings with prayer, is that not a method of establishing religion? If they started each meeting by stabbing a picture of someone or something with a knife, is that not making a statement by the governing body? How is starting the meetings with prayer different?

    Comment by jsbenkert (original poster) at 1:34 PM on Mar. 10, 2013

  • So, were they making you take a religious test at this meeting?

    Apparently you don't understand what the word "test" means in that context. By only allowing people associated with a religion that has an ordination system, they are, in fact, requiring a test, one that can only be passed by a handful of faiths, unless they use some mail order ordination that requires them to be ordained in a faith they don't believe just to get a piece of paper.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 2:35 PM on Mar. 10, 2013

  • No, I know what it meant. But were they requiring the people in attendance to take an oath of allegiance to a certain religion?

    If I am Muslim, must I stop partaking in my Islamic beliefs in public to make your happy?

    If I am Jewish, must I stop partaking in my beliefs because an athirst is offended?

    If I am Wiccan, must I stop partaking in my rituals to make you happy?

    Why must ALL practice of religion stop to appease those that have no religion if there is religious freedom? Isn't that, in a way, making a law suppressing religion? Isn't that unconstitutional?


    Answer by Anonymous at 2:51 PM on Mar. 10, 2013

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