On Friday, July 13, 2012, the American Humanist Association asked the Wilmington, NC city council to stop holding sectarian prayers during public meetings because it is a violation of the separation of church and state. The prayers have frequently been expressly Christian in nature.

One year later on Wednesday, July 3, 2013, the Knoxville City Council was one the latest local government bodies in East Tennessee to be asked to stop opening its meetings with prayer. The Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter to the council asking them to stop opening its meetings with prayer. The council begins each meeting with an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance. The foundation questions the legality of opening a government meeting with prayer. It also argues that opening each meeting with prayer, even if different religions are represented, isolates those who are not religious.

Then again on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sent a letter today to Jacksonville’s mayor asking that the city stop opening council sessions with sectarian prayer. “Beginning … any government session, with a prayer that consistently reflects only one faith tradition, impermissibly represents government preference for one particular faith over others…” said Glenn Katon, project director for the ACLU of Florida Religious Freedom, in a statement.

Such requests show a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of such secular groups about Christians. They are of the opinion that such things as prayer are apart and separate from a true Christian’s everyday life. In other words, it’s what Christians do, not what they are. They couldn’t be more wrong! Communion with God is like breathing; like a heartbeat; like a pulse to a born again child of God. Perhaps these anti-God secularists have come to this conclusion because they see so many people who call themselves Christian, relegating their contact with God to Sunday morning services or see them pray only in emergencies. In response to criticism, some Christians have resorted to silent prayer or a moment of silence.

Since the separation of church and state does not exist in the Constitution; and since freedom of religion is expressly guaranteed without government interference, then their demands must be considered a violation of the first amendment. Here’s what it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” By the way, this same amendment includes freedom of the press and the right of the people peaceably to assemble. You talk about a triple whammy! This amendment allows people to gather together peacefully; to speak their minds, even if it involves religious expression.

But don’t expect the courts, or even the Supreme Court, to honor this tradition and guarantee. More and more judges and justices are being persuaded that religious expression and practice are an amendment to life; something that can be put aside for the moment so as not to offend nonbelievers. Unfortunately, many churches, pastors, and their members have provided ample evidence of this theory. In addition, many of the prayers that are being objected to are not directed to God, but to the listeners. Prayer can be a personal conversation with God or a request to God. What offends them is the fact that when Christian’s pray, they pray to God the Father and do so in the name of Jesus His Son. To them, this represents the existence of a higher power; one that exercises control over the world and the universe. If they were to accept this reality it would curb their freedom to sin without consequence and deny their independence from God. This fear drives them to curtail prayer by Christians in public. They don’t like the conviction it brings.

I remember a well-known saying that  goes: “The family that prays together, stays together.” I’m persuaded then, that the nation that prays together, stays together. The three Hebrew children in the Bible defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s decree to stop praying in public. You saw what God did for them; imagine what He is capable of doing for us. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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