Friday, June 20, 2014

Readers weigh in on public prayer

Nearly 50 of you responded to my request for your opinions on the ongoing debate about public prayer.

It’s a subject that’s very much in the news. And my take in last week’s blog was that the clamor for public prayer – before government meetings, in public schools, on the gridiron at public universities – seemed to be more about some trying to establish the dominance of the majority religion, namely Christianity. (FYI: I’m Catholic.)

Here’s what some of you said:

  • “As someone who is not ‘Christian,’ I feel strongly that the only public prayer that is talked about is Christian prayer. I realize many people fight for this because this is how they were raised and what they’re used to. However, the world is changing, and many people worship in a different way, to a different God (or Goddess), or chose to not worship at all. That is a reason why church and state should be separate.” – Laura Reich, Matthews.

  • “The country is losing its identity enough without being concerned about these far-out (protests against) … innocent prayers before games and (at) school. This is still a Christian country. And I don’t believe Christians are trying to make Christianity a majority activity to the exclusion of other religions – they’re just standing up for themselves and (their) Christian activity.” – Charlie Seng, Lancaster, S.C.

  • “As a (Jewish) teenager, it irked me when, at school functions, the prayer was concluded with ‘We pray in Jesus’ name.’ I believe there was no intentional slight, but just the fact that people didn't even consider there might be someone in the audience that made the use of ‘we’ incorrect, bothered me.” – Mark Selleck, Mineral Springs.

  • “I thank God, yes God, that we have legal push-back to say to schools: ‘You will NOT keep our children from Bible reading. You will NOT keep our children from saying Merry Christmas.’" – Gerri  (last name withheld), Charlotte.

  • “Sadly, there are too many Christian leaders who would deny the diversity our democracy established in the First Amendment. Why can’t the public forum be opened with a simple moment of silence, so each in his own words and way may reflect on the concerns of the day?” – Barney Mulholland, Indian Trail.

  • “Christians are not the bad guys here! Christians are not murdering innocent people around the world who do not believe as they do; Mormon missionaries are not strapping bombs to their bodies and Baptists are not desecrating religious symbols. Neither are Christians complaining about prayers in public!” – John Lane, Charlotte.

  • “Public prayer is a wonderful way for religious zealots to show off their faux humility.” – Albert So, Charlotte.

  • “I am Christian and it does not bother me that my children or grandchildren sit next to people who pray in public to another god. My family knows that they are praying to a false god and their prayers do not have any significance.” – Cathy Lefsky, Davidson.

      -- Tim Funk


Anonymous said...

Elected officials have the same constitutional rights as anyone else. When the City Council had a Muslim on the board he prayed one way (in Arabic). When the County Commission had a Jewish member he read from the Torah (and in Hebrew I think). Christians that are elected to office have that EXACT same right. After the ruling, Commissioner Ridenhour read a prayer from a founding father and it was "in Jesus' name". Different Christian denominations have different rules. Evangelicals generally however follow Christ's commandments in Matthew 10:33 as follows: "But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." King James Version (KJV) All this ruling did was allow Christians to pray and follow their own faith. Those who don't like it can just ignore it. Bill James - County Commission, District 6

Anonymous said...

With the thousands of different beliefs and religions out there Cathy Lefsky believes she was one of the few to choose the "right" one?


Bird said...

Mr. James, I'm a Christian and active in my church. Yet I don't see the need to have a prayer preceeding public events (e.g., government meetings, sporting events, etc.). Everyone is free to pray privately and, if there is a desire to have some sort of prayer before an event, it can easily be solved by the aforementioned moment of silence, wherein each individual can ask for guidance. It's not anti-Christian or a denial of God to NOT pray publically before an event, and it's rather ludicrous to suggest it is.

I'm not ashamed to say I'll pray for you and hope that God guides you in your endeavors. However, forcing prayer into an area where the purpose seems to be making public spectacle about a supposed supression of religious freedom rather than truly practicing the tenants of your faith seems disingenuous at best.

Mike Tunney said...

It would seem many Christians are not really familiar with the Bible. Otherwise they would be aware of Jesus straightforward instructions in Matthew 6:5 - 6;
" not a hypocrit for they love to pray the streets that they may be seen by men."

"...when thou prayest enter into the closet and when thou hast shut the door pray to thy Father in secret.."
These are unambiguous instructions. Jesus was clearly and firmly opposed to public prayer. His true followers should be also.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want to leave the public with the idea that this is up for 'debate'. I won't tell you how to pray and I will not listen to others instruct me how I should or should not do so. Congress opens with prayer, the Legislatures, the Courts. Local government has always done so. Most Americans are Christian. Those of us that are evangelical will pray in public as God and our faith dictates. For me, I have no intention of modifying any prayer I give just because someone might be offended. While I posted because as an elected official the topic involves me; my post was no way a request for understanding or approval. No one will tell me how to pray or tell other faiths how to do so. It is fashionable to force Christians to knuckle under because we are in the 'majority'. Praying in public at the opening of a meeting is a American cultural tradition. Praying 'in Jesus' name' is my faith and my values. The hypocrites to me are those that want to regulate Christian prayers but have no problem with Muslim or Jewish prayer in any form or fashion. Bill James (County Commission, District 6)

Bird said...

Hi Mr. James. Thanks for your response. As I said in my earlier post, I don't intend to tell you or anyone else how to pray or practice your faith. I'm glad that you are proud of your Christianity and aren't hesitant to share that. I was simply questioning the need, apart from cultural tradition, to pray before a public, secular gathering. There are situations where it wouldn't raise an eyebrow given the audience. For example, has there been an uproar over the invocations before Panthers games? Those are almost always prayers to God, which embraces the Judeo-Christian ethic and does not exclude Islam, which is also mono-thesistic. To my knowledge there hasn't been, but there may have been some offended Hindus and Buddhists out there. However, if it is an issue, why force the practice?

I am curious as to one statement you made in your response. You said, "The hypocrites to me are those that want to regulate Christian prayers but have no problem with Muslim or Jewish prayer in any form or fashion." I may just be unaware of the incident, but has there ever been a purely Muslim or Jewish prayer before a government meeting? If so, what was the response? I would assume it would have engendered the same response since those most vehemently opposed to this type of public prayer seem to be atheists or agnostics. If you could site an example of a Jewish or Islamic prayer before a meeting that wasn't protested, I'd appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I find some of these comments to be hilarious. Especially the fella who said he didnt mind if his kids saw other people praying to another god because his kids knew they were praying to a false god. i wish you'd open your close mind and realize pretty much all religouns come from the exact same story, just different languages and different character names. Please go study a few different religouns and realize how similar they ALL are, very creepy. You pray to a very similar god so if that god is false, chances are so is yours. find commonality not differences.

Anonymous said...

B-but MY fictious deity is the right one! The rest of you are going to burn. But not me! The thoughts in my head will telepathically reach him/her/it and yours won't!

If your deity is all knowing and all seeing, what is the point of prayer? It already knows what you're going to ask for.

I think public prayer is made for people to reinforce their own delusions: "If I say these things in public and people around me join in, then it must be real and it must be normal."

Stop kidding yourselves. There is no difference between worshipping the Sun or "the Son". It's all in your head.

Anonymous said...

I need to pay more attention to our elected officials -- who is this Bill James character? You sir, are a wacko. Your views on prayer are dumbfounding. Wow. If I ever attend one of your meetings, I intend to perform my own karaoke to "Copacabana" at the top of my lungs during your little convo with god. Free country and all that. Besides, Barry Manilow is my HERITAGE, and nobody is going to tell me when or where I CAN'T sing!!!!

Anonymous said...

Praying in public is all for show.

Anonymous said...

Cathy Lefsky, wasn't it nice of god to arrange it so that you would just HAPPEN to be born in a place that worships the one true god? You could have gotten super unlucky like the other 6 billion poor lost souls on this planet. Wow, congrats!!

Come on Cathy, what would jesus do? Apparently he'd be a self-righteous jerk, by your example.

Anonymous said...

How about just expressing the single tenant nearly every religion professes:

"Love one another."

The rest is window-dressing and unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Albert So and 1:53PM.

Anonymous said...

If it offends anyone it must be stopped, so at this rate we'll all need to be nameless and faceless with no interaction with anyone to ensure that no one is offended. Well unless you conduct yourself in a manner that the media and liberal progressives approve of.

Anonymous said...

Very humorous how some with all certainty attempt to strike down our beliefs that God exists. Go ahead and don't believe, that is your choice, but it seems to me that those that cry out "No God" are merely trying to convince themselves of their disbelief.

Anonymous said...

"but it seems to me that those that cry out "No God" are merely trying to convince themselves of their disbelief."

Seems that those who pray in public are also trying to convince themselves their "God" is real.

Or at least convince others that they believe.

Not that there would be ANYTHING to gain in our society by appearing to be pious.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how she got so lucky? Lol.
I think many Christians are extremely selfish, and she is one of them.

Anonymous said...

Actually, your God dictates for you to pray in private...why the discrepancy in your statement?

Anonymous said...

Amen! :)