Friday, June 13, 2014

Is public prayer just for Christians?

Prayer is in the news.

Let me rephrase that: Public prayer is in the news.

As in prayer before government meetings. Prayer in public school. Coach-led prayer on the gridiron.

All have made headlines lately. And it leaves me with a question.

What if, in each of these news stories, we changed a few words?

Many Christians applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 ruling that it was OK for a town council in Greece, N.Y., to open its meetings with a chaplain’s prayer invoking Jesus.

OK. Let’s change a few words: Say the court said it was OK for a town council to open its meetings with an imam’s prayer invoking Allah. How many Christians would also support that?

The ruling would seem to allow it. And a recent survey found that Islam is now the second-largest religion – behind Christianity – in North Carolina and many other states.

I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that some Christians – and I am a churchgoing Catholic – would say that only Christian prayers should be allowed. Or that Muslim prayers should not be allowed.

OK, next: The state General Assembly is poised to pass a bill that would affirm students’ rights to pray in public school and would allow teachers and staff to “adopt a respectful posture” during student-led prayers.

One of the bill’s co-sponsors said it was filed as a reaction to a 2012 case in which a first-grader was forced to remove references to God from a poem about her grandfather.

Clearly, this first-grader was wronged by a constitutional illiterate. But let’s say the first-grader used a different word: Not God, but Vishnu, a major God in Hinduism.

Do you still think the bill would have been filed? Is the legislature as sensitive to minority religions as it is to Christianity?

Next, there was news that an atheist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, had launched a complaint against Clemson University’s football program. The group charged that Tigers football coach Dabo Swinney crossed the line separating church from state (Clemson is a public university) when he scheduled team devotionals.

The current edition of “Decision,” the magazine published by the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, cast this as an attack on Christian Swinney’s religious liberty.

What if Swinney were a Buddhist? And he scheduled team meditations? The atheist group may still have filed a complaint against Clemson, but would “Decision” have still run an article?

Don’t get me wrong: I believe prayer to be powerful. And I am all for true religious liberty.

I just wonder if the debate over public prayer is really more about something else: Some who belong to the majority religion trying to establish its dominance, get the government seal of approval and crowd out some other faiths.

That’s what happens in countries like Saudi Arabia. But this is America, and we’re getting more religiously diverse by the day.

OK, now, what do you think?

-- Tim Funk


Anonymous said...

christians really are the only people (the only religious group) that ever attempts to push their religion on others. Muslims pray quietly. Jews as well. Christians are the only ones that do it publically.

Elizabeth Craig said...

Here is the basic reason I object to public prayer at government functions: it does NOT make the participants any nicer or any wiser. It just make them preen themselves with self-righteous arrogance, then go ahead and shaft the taxpayers. My little town in south Georgia never QUIT having a preacher pray before county commission meetings and they put up a 10 Commandments poster when that became a controversial topic. My feeling on challenging it was "Why bother?" I did hope that someone of a religious persuasion other than Southern Baptist would volunteer to pray, but imams, rabbis, and Buddhist monks are in short supply around here. Prayers done for political posturing go directly against what Jesus said in Matthew: 6, and make people look like a bunch of hypocrites. One of the meanest men I ever knew was the local high school principal: his voice came on the intercom every morning in our home rooms droning a prayer to "Our Heavenly Father" in his "church voice." His public prayers were completely out of step with how he treated students and faculty. So my objections to public prayer have nothing to do with constitutional interpretation and everything to do with religious objections. Maybe a Christian should sue to stop public prayer based on Christ's injunction against it.

Matt M said...

"Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's. Render unto G#d what is G#d's."

As Christians we do not have to pray before government. Anytime a church is associated too closely with government - the Church becomes politicized and suffers for it.

However - from a purely legal point of view - the Consitution prohibits the establishment of an official religion only at the national level. The States are not bound by that same dictate and many states had legal religious requirements for holding office until the states themselves decided to drop them.

Anonymous said...

"christians really are the only people (the only religious group) that ever attempts to push their religion on others."
The kidnapped Nigerian girls (forced converts to Sharia Islam) just called to say hi.

Anonymous said...

"Is public prayer just for Christians?"
No. Atheists and journalists are permitted to pray as well.

Thanks and have a great weekend.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you exactly what would happen...when teaching a university level class in urban studies I would broach the topic of charter schools by discussing how some proposed legislation would give tax payer dollars to send children to madrassas. Instant outrage, kids yelling about Obama the Muslim! and they KNEW IT! downfall of the US! Eyerolls!

Then I would follow it up the next calss session with an op-ed piece from a prominent evangelist saying that the prohibition on sending tax dollars to Christian schools was an attack on religious freedom and they would nod sagely in agreement and rail about the War on Christmas.

Every. Semester.

Anonymous said...

I am support any sincere prayer by anyone of faith no matter their choice of faith. However, it only appears to become a federal case if a Christian prays in public and invokes Jesus or God. That is why it appears other religions are quiet. For some reason in the past 20 to 30 years all religions are non-offensive except Christianity. There are a lot of people who seem to hate or be offended by "God" or "Jesus" appearing in any type of public forum even when it simply prayer and no one is attempting to force that faith on them. The groups launching these lawsuits don't go after Islam, Judaism, or any other faith. They're all hypocrites with no respect for any view they don't agree with.

Anonymous said...

Throughout history, religion and religious ideology has been the cause of most of the worlds violence.

Anonymous said...

What's next- snake handling before Council meetings?

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth Craig - EXACTLY!!

Anonymous said...

"Muslims pray quietly" Really?

Like they did after they hijacked 3 human occupied jetliners and crashed them into the human occupied World Trade Center the human occupied Pentagon and attempted to fly Flight 93 into the human occupied United States Capital in Washington.

Yeah let's "pray quietly" as they massacred 3 thousand humans.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Funk, it is sad to hear how fearful you are that the rights our supreme court took away at one time, and are now giving back, is somehow a conspiracy to mandate a specific religion? Dude, prayer was the building block of our country, like it or not. The fact of the matter is that school districts do NOT care if anyone talks about buddhism, hinduisn, atheism, the actually celebrate anything they can say is multi-cultural. The only religion that is persecuted by the government is Christianity... Not that there isn't ignorance and prejudice towards other religions in personal (and even some Christian church) viewpoints, and, but the overriding governmental persecution over the past 60 yrs has been to Christianity.

Anonymous said...

The problem, as I see it, is that only Christianity and Christians are under attack in the public square. None of the other religions are getting persecuted, arrested, shut down, put out, turned away, and treated like criminals the way Christian are today. Our God demands that we behave in a certain way in buiness and personal transactions. Most of us are not trying to hurt anyone, we just want to honor our God. Christians have lost their businesses, are engaged in costly court battles, are being villified in the press in their towns and cities, and incurring many other legal problems, all because they are adhering to the instructions of our God. Most of us are not acting like "haters," but we are not going to engage in business or personal endeavors that are contrary to the God we serve. It's peculiar how no one ever bothers the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, or other religions when they say no to doing business with LGBTTQs, and no one is making them stop renting halls, having services in schools, etc. Just Christians.

And Mr. Funk, the majority of Christians are not "trying to establish [their] dominance, [trying to] get the government seal of approval and crowd out some other faiths." We just want the same religious freedoms we have always had in America. Those freedoms are being trampled on and eroded every day, in every way. I don't understand how a Bible-believing, Jesus-exalting, God-honoring Christian can even put forth that statement. It just seems like a torch to dry tender.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:57

Dude, the gun was the building block of this country.

Ray Warren said...

"The problem, as I see it, is that only Christianity and Christians are under attack in the public square. None of the other religions are getting persecuted, arrested, shut down, put out, turned away, and treated like criminals the way Christian are today."

Seriously? Christianity permeates the south. What planet has the writer been living on?

I will be in church on Sunday. It seems to me that being able to practice my religion is sufficient and there is no need to ask the government to become involved. Our dominate religion is definitely not under attack. To say otherwise simply shows insecurity and paranoia.

lkncareys said...

"Some who belong to the majority religion trying to establish its dominance, get the government seal of approval and crowd out some other faiths." Seems more like the case of some that are the minority trying to force the majority to change non-invasive practices,i.e. no one is forced to participate. If the majority of the population was Islam, e.g. it would seem that Islamic prayers would be logical. How successful in that scenario would a Christian minority wanting to stop the Islamic prayer be ? I shutter thinking of how they would be treated. If you go to a sports event in Canada, you listen to the Canadian National Anthem - you don't complain that you are offended !

Read more here:

bobcat99 said...

If you believe Christianity is under attack in this country, you simply cannot in any way be taken seriously. The US is among the most religiously free and actively religious nation in the world and no less than 80% of us are Christians. The "Christians are under attack" argument in the US (there are other countries where Christians are actually attacked for their religion) is not about Christian expression; it is about Christian privilege. But because they know they can't win the "better than you" argument directly in America, some Christians act like victims who are being put upon, which makes most people roll their eyes and dismiss faith altogether.

Anonymous said...

This pretty much sums it up:

"I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God. I've seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. And goodness - what God desires - is here [points to Balian's head] and here [points to Balian's heart] and by what you decide to do every day you will be a good man...or not."

Anonymous said...

On Sundays, friends from Charlotte Friends Meeting, Quakers, got out to lunch after Meeting. After our food arrives, we take one another's hands and have silent worship just as we do in Meeting. Now there are some Friends who are uneasy with this, and out of love and concern for their feelings, we do not do it when they are with us. Anyone should be able to pray wherever and whenever they feel they need it. I think a moment of silence and reflection would benefit government officials. Wherein lies the rub is when it is loud and sounds more sanctimonious than a call for spiritual guidance. And I think there is enough disruption in the classroom and catering to every whim of every child without passing the law proposed by the GA. However, I would have no problem with taking time for a few minutes of silence before starting the day. It is good for the mind, the body as well as the soul.

Anonymous said...

I grew up Catholic in the 1960s and 70s right here in Charlotte. I will never forget being singled out by a teacher for not knowing "their" (Protestant)prayer before lunch. This happened more than once and this was well after the Supreme Court ruling about praying in schools. I agree with what Elizabeth Craig wrote above - it's public preening.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand. Are you a Christian? If you were a Christian you would be lifting up God's Kingdom, not man's ideas, and man's false religions or even mans laws above God's. Perhaps you are Christian in name only. Perhaps you don't believe that these people that are being prayed for will really go to hell without coming to Christ. Perhaps you do believe that but you don't care. When people pray, God shows up! And when God shows up people are touched and changed!. Why would you discourage that from happening? You seem to be caught up in "fairness". But how "fair" is it to let people live a lie and then burn in hell forever when you know the truth Mr. Christian? Perhaps, instead of fighting those who are helping to spread the Holy Spirit through prayer, you should consider being filled with Him yourself. :-D Just sayin' Acts 4:31 "And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness."