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COLUMN: National Prayer Day judgment is right

Thursday, May 13, 2010 | 11:04 a.m. CDT; updated 4:29 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I respect J. Karl Miller’s opinions as a fellow commentator at the Missourian though we seldom agree on an issue. He is the paper’s Right to my Left.

My disagreement with Karl’s assessment of Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling in Freedom from Religion Foundation v. George W. Bush (amended to President Barack Obama) should not come as a surprise. Judge Crabb’s position is a lot more complicated.

Edward Kennedy said in a 1983 speech given to the Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Baptist College, now Liberty University, “the framers (of the Constitution) gave freedom for all religion, and from any established religion, the very first place in the Bill of Rights.”

The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Law supports that by stating, “the Establishment Clause was intended to prohibit the federal government from declaring … a national religion, such as existed in many other countries at the time of the nation's founding.” Politics and religion is like mixing oil and water.

Karl is right. There is no penalty for not observing National Prayer Day for it is not a “law.” Unfortunately, as with any law, rule or suggestion of public prayer, not observing makes one different and being different is not acceptable in our polite society.

Because the overwhelming American religious belief is Protestant, and that any prayer given by a minister, reverend or priest (the norm) is a Christian prayer, and with a growing segment of non-Christian and nontheistic Americans, the legislative establishment of a National Prayer Day is contrary to the “Establishment Clause” in the Constitution.

I just may be that “zealot” that Karl speaks of in his column. If we are putting Christmas (Christ’s mass) trees up in the courthouse square, we must also put up a menorah for Hanukkah, Wiccan and Pagan depictions for the winter solstice, and so on. We need to recognize Ramadan and Buddha’s birthday as national holidays. Or we recognize nothing and that will not happen.

Back to Kennedy. He provided the historical proof that, “during the Revolution, Catholics, Jews, and Non-Conformists all rallied to the cause and fought valiantly for the American commonwealth,” and that then, as of now, “fear was of factional strife among dozens of denominations.” I am still not sure why some do not consider Catholics to be Christians.

National Prayer Day’s history began with the Rev. Billy Graham’s push to establish a prayer holiday with the gross misstatement that, “our Nation was founded upon God, religion and the Church.”

As Karl correctly states, God is not in our Constitution. However, our governing document does prohibit religion being used as a test to hold public office. The Constitution of the United States is clearly a secular document.

God has been used as American propaganda, something I hope most of you would indeed reject. Yet too many use God as part of their battle cry and the propaganda continues to promulgate.

Unlike Karl’s assessment, this is not a new argument. “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21 NASB). Even Jesus knew that there was a need for separation between the secular and sectarian rule.

To Karl’s question, “from what church or religious domination does your anxiety emanate?” I would answer, “the new Christian right, the Evangelical and Baptist neo-conservative, and the Christian 'non-denominational' churches as well as the radical Islamic mosques, all seeing their religion as the only religion."

It is unfortunate that Karl has not been discriminated against because of his faith. I have for being Jewish, for being a Humanist and for not believing in the God or gods of Christendom, even here in Columbia, and speak about these experiences in presentations given to civic groups and schools.

There is a plethora of legal opinions to support the Court’s position. The quote used from Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 430 (1962) exemplifies the decision, that the “first and most immediate purpose (of the First Amendment) rested on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion.”

The decision was correct and based on law. This is not “Serial Silliness” but a serious move to save the Constitution and our pluralistic form of government.

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics.  You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.


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Comments

J Karl Miller May 14, 2010 | 10:03 a.m.

To my respected colleague, David, I offer my appreciation for establishing once more that reasonable people can agree to disagree in a civil manner. My rationale for declaring Judge Crabb's ruling a foolish one (my opinion remains the same) is two-fold--that no requirement for prayer is established nor is there a mandate that the prayer be Christian. As I read the proclamation, prayer, if desired, may be offered in the particular faith of the prayee.

I believe in separation of church and state, the "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21)" is as relevant today as when initially uttered.

Where I differ in philosophy is, to me, quite simple and practical. I respect the religions, the sects and the beliefs of others---however, I find no reason to fear them. Intolerance, whether of a majority or a minority, is still intolerance.

(Report Comment)
Robert Jones May 14, 2010 | 9:39 p.m.

Here is my call to all Christians. We do not need the Executive, Legislative, or Judicial branch to have a national day of prayer. There is nothing that says we cannot do things the same way we always have. Students have the meet me at the pole prayer day. I do believe that we as Christians should lift up our leaders, in all branches, in prayer daily. My good friend, God rest his soul, Aubrey Grindstaff taught me the five finger prayer method.

1. Praise
2. Thanksgiving
3. Request for others (this is where Pastor Grindstaff prayed for our leaders and our troops)
4. Confession
5. Request for you

In Acts Chapter 1:14 "These all continued with one accord and supplication, with the women and Mary mother of Jesus with his brothers." We can do it prayer warriors. We DO NOT need anyone to remind us of this, especially the government. So like Karl I agree to disagree with Mr. Rosman. It is more of a principle to me than anything else.

Robert

(Report Comment)
Linda A May 17, 2010 | 11:01 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
Larry Carter Center May 18, 2010 | 11:46 a.m.

Again MR Miller betrays the uniform of our nation's military with obsfucation of a critical issue. All of us vets were sworn to defend the Constitution. MR Miller implies we Atheists are second class citizens who would never pray to any alleged deity. The penalties for refusing chaplain lead prayers or Presidential prayers is stiff under the UCMJ. Good order and deportment of any unit is often wrapped around a Christian moment by a pious subordinate or a zealot commander. The penalties are there defacto while the law by Congress is a dejure requirement for every occupant of the White House to pray. ..........War and death is sold easier when 72 virgins are promised in prayers to believers. ..........Only chief executive Jesse Ventura in Minnesota refused to comply with similar theocratic activities. Judge Crabb is a true patriot who actually reads the high law and illegal Congressional mandate for this annual ritual. If more German soldiers would have refused to wear the belt buckle: "gott Mit Uns" maybe Poland would never have been invaded? The gawdly call to war by boy Bush was no less an invasion illegal by a Christian dictator. We keep prayer a private practice, science and peace will have a chance. ............I'm one American Atheist who thanks the Wisconsin godless schools for the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Judge Crabb answered my prayer. ........... ..843-926-1750 Larry Carter Center...USN'71'73

(Report Comment)
Robert Jones May 20, 2010 | 8:45 p.m.

I hate to get into a debate on religion and it's place in our society. What are the atheists afraid of. Faith is a choice, one I will not force on my children, because ultimately it is them who have to make the decision. It is a concious decision by every christian. Nobody is forcing you to make this decision. I have an idea, let's have a day where we can forget about all morality and faith. Oh wait stoner have 4/20, Cinco de Mayo is an excuse to get drunk, St. Patrick's day is another holiday that has been exploited by immorality. You all have 364 other days of the year to do what ever the hell you want.

(Report Comment)

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