Someone complained to the ACLU when a man, Hashmel Turner (not shown), a City Council member, led the opening prayers of their the City Council meetings in Fredericksburg, VA and invoked the name of Jesus Christ. ACLU threatened to sue the city if this didn’t stop. So, the city said they would adopt a non-denominational prayer policy.
Okay, hold the presses here.
POINT ONE: Purpose of Prayer
The man was offering up a prayer. To whom was he praying? To God. Which God is that? The same God our Founding Fathers prayed to. That would be the God of the Bible. Why pray? To speak to God.
The Bible teaches us to pray “in the name of Jesus”…that is how we have access to God. All Christians who believe what the Bible teaches agree that Jesus is “the only way”. While non-Christians might not agree, that’s fine, but Christians believe that to be true. When Christians pray to their God, they invoke the name of Jesus. If they didn’t, then they would not be able to gain access to their God.
This city council member believed he had the right to invoke the name of Jesus when he prayed in a governmental setting because he believed
“that prayers in open council meetings are not government speech. Therefore, he has argued, the Constitution’s protections of free speech prohibit the government from dictating their content.”
Unfortunately the former Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor (filling in for someone else) issued an opinion yesterday at the US Court of Appeals in the 4th Circuit upholding a previous court ruling.
“Turner was not forced to offer a prayer that violated his deeply held religious beliefs,” O’Connor wrote. “Instead, he was given the chance to pray on behalf of government. Turner was unwilling to do so in the manner that the government had proscribed, but remains free to pray on his own behalf, in nongovernmental endeavors, in the manner dictated by his conscience.’
“His First Amendment Free Exercise rights have not been violated.”
I think this is crazy. How can a Christian be expected to “pray on behalf of the government” and be forbidden to invoke the name of Jesus? Who is the government praying to?
This is a blatant attempt to remove prayer from the public square. If Christians can’t pray “in the name of Jesus”, whether it’s in a governmental setting or not, their prayers are in vain. They might as well not pray at all!
POINT TWO: Government-Proscribed Prayer
“…the manner that the government had proscribed…”
The fact that the government proscribed a manner of prayer violates our 1st Amendment rights, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”
I think I’m going to give the law firm representing this man a call and suggest they switch their argument around. The city council should never have proscribed a manner of prayer in the first place. If there is going to be a prayer offered in their meetings then they must allow men and women to pray according to their faith.
Should they decide to remove all prayer instead,… Well, let’s just say they’ll have another fight on their hands.
After all this is America, isn’t it?
Needless to say, Turner is appealing this decision to the US Supreme Court.