Thursday, May 8, 2014

SCOTUS on Public Prayer

I was remarkably disappointed with the decision of the Supreme Court, revealed this past Monday, about prayer before public meetings. It is not a crucial matter, but it is offensive. Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent is remarkable in its wisdom and clarity.
by Charlie Leck
I should profess, definitively, that I am a follower of that rapscallion liberal who wandered the hills and villages of Galilee a couple thousand years ago, contending that he knew the what-of and the where-as and the of-alls about the Creator God. If one must be a follower – and I feel I must – there is no better lord to sidle on up to – or of whom to take heed. His calling is not easy and I stumble so frequently in my attempts to obey him that I might not appear to be attentive to him at all. He seems often to ask outrageous things of me; and the responsibilities he places on me appear always more cumbersome and weighty than these old legs can bear.
Precisely because I am his follower, I do not believe the Supreme Court of the United States ruled correctly on Monday when they said it is proper to allow prayer before public, government meetings (Town of Greece v. Galloway). These are those kinds of public prayers of which my lord spoke unfavorably. I oppose such praying if it is going to make uncomfortable and agitated those who choose not to follow the paths of the one I follow.
The highest court should probably have given some serious consideration to the expressed feelings of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. During a debate about the Virginia Bill for Religious Liberty, Madison spoke against including the name of “Jesus Christ” in the text’s preamble.
“The better proof of reverence for that holy name would be not to profane it by making it a topic of legislative discussion.”
Such is the kind of discussion that takes place regularly before the town council of the City of Greece, New York.
I feel pained every time I hear a prayer at meetings of clubs and associations I attend, when those prayers call upon the name of my own lord. It is not fair to those who have chosen a different direction or purpose in their faith. My own lord, of whose feelings I am intimately aware, was always offended himself by such public prayer.
“But our town is Christian!” Such was the cry of the people of Greece, NY.
James Madison was speaking of Catholic priests in the founding days of our nation when he said…
“To say that his principles are obnoxious or that his sect is small, is to lift the veil at once and exhibit in its native deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers, or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor.”
Oh, my! The man could really write.
And my lord said to me, just yesterday as we walked along the Mall…
“When you pray, please do not be like the hypocrites. You know them! They love to pray in the synagogues and they like to stand on the street corners so they may be seen by all.”
He chuckled to himself and he shook his head mildly. He put an arm around me and continued.
“Now, when you pray, go into your very inner room, and close the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father will consider it a matter between the two of you and he will pay you heed. And do not pray as the show-offs do, using meaningless and rote expressions. They must think they will be heard because they use so many words. And when you come out again, into the light, you will know that our Father has heard you.”
Then, he led me on, pointing up into the sky at the migrating flocks that traveled north. We could hear them cackling and quacking loudly. He chuckled.
“It is the sound of the street corner preachers, no?”


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