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Posted October 16, 2012 | comments 69 Comments

Groups: Meeting prayers illegal

Shenandoah County supervisor chairman says board is not out to offend anyone

By Alex Bridges

Civil rights groups say the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors violate the Constitution by using Christian references in prayers before meetings.

Invocations given in the past four regular sessions by a member of the board included "Jesus" or "son," words attorneys say render a prayer Christian, which courts have ruled unconstitutional.

But while such Christian references have landed at least two other Virginia elected boards in hot water with rights groups, Shenandoah County supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley said he's heard no complaints from residents.

"To my knowledge it's never been an issue," Helsley said recently. "I've never had a call in my years on the board concerning it. I don't know that we've really thought about it.

"Surely no one who gives a prayer is trying to offend anybody or any religion by any stretch of the imagination, but we just felt a prayer was appropriate before we started our meetings and we've continued to do that," Helsley said. "But we've never really tried to show favoritism for anything. I think if it had I would have heard it, but I feel pretty confident that no has complained, no citizens have complained the way we conduct our prayers."

Shenandoah County Supervisor Dennis Morris, in a prayer he gave last week, said, "we thank you for your son" and had made a similar remark at a previous meeting. Supervisor Richard "Dick" Neese made a similar remark in a prayer at an earlier meeting. Supervisors also have ended prayer with "In Jesus' name we pray. Amen."

The supervisors who normally give the prayer "are not out to offend anybody. They're just speaking from the heart," Helsley said.

But prayers that end "In Jesus' name we pray, amen," or use "son," and given at government meetings makes the invocation sectarian, according to representatives for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The legal experts say sectarian prayer goes against case law and violates the U.S. Constitution.

Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU, said ending the prayer with 'In Jesus name we pray' renders it a sectarian prayer.

"If boards or councils do that regularly, they're violating the Constitution," she said by phone recently.

Such an invocation of sectarian language landed the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors in federal court last September and a rights group this summer asked Roanoke County leaders to end a similar practice.

When asked about the issue, J. Jay Litten, county attorney for Shenandoah County, stated in an email he understood the significance of the issue.

"I'm sure any references to the 'son' or to 'Jesus' were inadvertent and just accidental reflections of the supervisors' personal faith," Litten stated. "I intend to remind them of the appropriate boundaries for prayer in public meetings, and I'm confident that they will stay within those boundaries."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a complaint regarding the sectarian nature of prayers conducted at public meetings of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. The complaint prompted supervisors to reassess their policy, according to Glenberg. The ACLU chapter also sent a letter to Roanoke leaders recommending that supervisors refrain from using language in prayers that site any specific religion or to just lead a moment of silence.

"Religious is OK, but it's sectarian that's the problem," Glenberg said. "If it refers to a specific religion, usually Christianity, but any other religion, then the courts in this jurisdiction have held that's unconstitutional."

"If it's clear from the prayer that it's intended to be Christian, like if it talks about our savior rising, these lines are very difficult to draw," Glenberg added. "That's why we always recommend that government bodies choose a moment of silence because that gives them the opportunity to solemnize the meeting but does not involve them in these questions of what prayers are sectarian and what prayers are not."

The foundation fields numerous complaints usually from people who attend, watch or listen to meetings, according to Patrick Elliott, staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin.

"I guess I don't find it surprising," Elliott said. "It seems to be an issue in a lot of government meetings and, as we've seen in the Roanoke Board of Supervisors, I would say a distraction from dealing with county business, you know, figuring out what kind of prayers, whether to give a prayer."

When asked whether ending prayer "In Jesus' name" as Shenandoah County supervisors have done breaks the law, Elliott agreed with Glenberg.

"It's unconstitutional," Elliott said. "If they're gonna continue to basically affiliate the board with one religious view, that's the issue we've seen in Roanoke and other areas as well."

Opening a meeting with a prayer or an invocation does not appear to violate the Constitution, according to Elliott.

"What matters is how they do that," Elliott said. "If they do that in sectarian terms, it's gonna be a problem no matter what they call it or what their policy is."

Conducting a moment of silence rather than holding a prayer remains the "safest" way to open a meeting, according to Elliott and Glenberg. Several local governing bodies and most school boards hold a moment of silence before their meetings. A few groups skip the invocation or moment of silence.

"I think [a moment of silence] also kind of allows everyone to pray or reflect in a way that makes sense to them and not as a government body figuring out how that's gonna somehow incorporate everyone," Elliott said. "That's kind of I guess more a policy question rather than a strictly legal issue."

In Roanoke County's case, a majority of the people may want a certain type of prayer given at meetings while a smaller group spoke out against sectarian language, according to Elliott.

"Thankfully, you know the Bill of Rights applies to minorities," Elliott said. "It's not a majority-rule kind of situation.

Steps to remedy the situation in Roanoke County drew protest from residents who wanted supervisors to keep prayer in their meetings, according to the Roanoke Times.

"The prayer issue is really kind of a national issue," Elliott said. "There are communities that deal with it and I think we're kind of proven right in the sense that it's very divisive."

A federal judge in U.S. District Court in Danville on Sept. 21 ordered Barbara Hudson and the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors to enter into mediation and attempt to resolve the complaint. Online court records indicate no lawsuit has been filed
against the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors.

"Local governments should just take a step back and say 'we're not going to delve into this religious issue' and either drop prayer and let people pray on their own during times they are not meeting or do the moment of silence," Elliott said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

69 Comments | Leave a comment

    It's a toss-up whether this makes me more sad or angry. Both describe my feelings. Sad for the ones who don't understand what they are doing by trying to remove the name of Jesus from everything and make this a Godless nation. And angry that they are trying to force everyone to live on their terms. Separation of church and state is one thing. Separation of God and country is quite another. I pray our supervisors will stand their ground.

    We are a nation of many religions. Using a Christian prayer at a public meeting is exclusionary, and imposes a climate that leads to issues for non-Christians in attendance. The moment of silence is a great idea and removes any potential conflict. If the board insists on continuing the present practices they will eventually run into a dead end on that path, meanwhile wasting taxpayers time, resources, and money.

      Are you kidding?? Sealuvr is right!! It is people like you that are taking our freedom of religion out of this great nation! I can't believe that you people really want to complain about prayer before a meeting! If you were with a soldier and he takes a knee before going into a combat zone are you going to complain about that too???

    Alex - you have gone out of your way on this one to stir up crap in order just to sell papers. I have been receiving the NVD for over 30 years and actually delivered the paper daily as a youngster. But as of tomorrow, my subscription will cease to exist. Tired of the BS you constantly create. Agree with you SeaLuvr. We are doomed.

    Its plain and simple GOD created heaven and earth, this great country was built on religon, freedom, and consitutional rights and it needs to be put back in our schools, our justice system, and etc. and if it offends anyone then they just need to get up and leave our great country and quit trying to ruin it for everyone else, there are more people that will stand up for the bible than there is against it but our coruptted government will let these morons have there way just like the homosexuals gets there way, but the BIBLE says a marriage is of 1 woman and 1 man not 1 man and 1 man or 1 woman and 1 woman, just like abortions , a child is a gift from GOD not a choice rather to have or not to have a child after getting pregnant, if any man and woman lays down and has sex and the woman gets pregnant then the both of them should have the respect and take the responsibility to raise that child in good faith, even if a woman gets raped then ends up pregnant she should either raise that child or give the child to a caring family that will give the child a good life not commit murder and not give that innocent child a fair chance in life. Our great country is being ruin every second by money and greed and that is what is being forced on WE THE PEOPLE and that isn't what our country is about or nor was it built on money and greed, so once again if your offended because of anything that I have wrote then grow up and get over it or get out of our great country, In JESUS name I will continue to pray for everyone. This is a ONE NATION UNDER GOD and IN GOD WE TRUST not some kind of game or communist island that we live on.

    I'd just as soon the BOS didn't pray at all, and extended their moment of silence throughout the entire meeting. That way when they were sticking it to the residents of the county we wouldn't have to worry about if these were good christian men. We would know they were only in it for themselves. And mda, if you want to win people over to Christianity how about acting the part and step down off your soapbox. One nation under god wasn't always in the pledge, and marriage was taken over by the state in an effort to stop interacial marriages.

      Wow, you don't want anyone telling you how to practice your religion.....obviously. And you have no problem forcing others to follow it too. According to your bible, Jesus asked us to love everyone and judge not.......Maybe you should take your Lord's advice.

    SeaLuvr is correct.

    The professional atheists have driven God out of their lives, and want to drive God out of ours -- using the bludgeon of threats (lawsuits in friendly federal courts) and fear (cost to taxpayer of defending our rights).

    Memo to supervisors: why not read from the Declaration of Independence at your next meeting: "All men are created." And we are "endowed by our Creator with certain rights." And we obey "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."

    And, finally, "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

    Call it a history lesson for those who want us to forget who we are and where we come from.

    Need more? Try George Washington's Farewell Address:

    "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

    These historical observations should be invoked not with a religious purpose, but with an educational purpose, the better to inform and to serve your constituents and the public at large.

    These professional atheists are a walking contradiction. They want to deny God's existence but they insist on exercising the rights that come not from government or from the courts, but from God Himself. They want Him driven out of our schools (along with logic -- see: "contradictions" and "fallacies") and out of public life altogether.

    Yet they enjoy the liberties that are grounded in the laws of nature and of nature's God, liberties which would disappear without Divine Providence.

    Need examples? Well, to add some historical perspective to your next meeting's deliberations, you might want to remind our atheist neighbors how successful atheistic regimes have been -- at murder.

    Stalin: 50 million
    Mao: 200 million
    Pol Pot: More than half of Cambodia's population

    Don't shrink from this confrontation, supervisors. Rely on the facts of history, "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."

    Go for it.

    Interesting......Civil Rights Groups made the observation, but no mention of anyone attending ShenCo meetings are complaining. Sounds like the Civil Rights groups need to direct their attention and resources to somewhere that actually is having a PROBLEM!

    People need to read and understand the Constitution. In no way, shape or form does praying in Jesus' name constitute and ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION!

    Here it is. Read it slowly:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      You are absolutely correct, Robert! Please all pay close attention to the part that says "prohibiting the free exercise thereof"! Basically this means that Congress, AND all the atheists, secular humanists, or whatever nomenclature they wish to be styled as, are FLAT OUT WRONG if they wish to attempt using the Constitution to prevent me from praying - anywhere and anytime I want to! If you choose not to believe in any deity, or practice any type of worship - FINE BY ME! Just stay out of MY religious exercises. GET A LIFE! PRAYER by a supervisory board, by a church, congregation, or by my niece Cassie is NOT HURTING YOU -NOTone little bit! Get OVER IT! The NVD has published several pieces by that renowned secular humanist Gene Rigelon - with picture and everything! I find that somewhat annoying, but instead of getting my proverbial panties in a bunch, I just TURN THE PAGE, and DON'T READ IT! I suggest if you don't appreciate prayer, just DON'T LISTEN! Think about something else!
      Have A NICE DAY! Rick

    I can't beleive in this nation where people have freedom of speech that people are going to complain about prayer. You walk down the street and it is very common to hear every curse word out there, nothing gets said about that no matter who it offends. It's horrible that prayer has gotten taken out of as much as it has why do people insist on taking it out of everything. The shape the world is in today everyone should be praying more.

    Simple solution: Read your Bible but be sure to include Matthew 6:5 and 6.

    5 Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward.

    6 But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

    My recommendation: have a moment of silence at the meetings and then pray all you want at home.

    I think people confuse what our forefathers meant by "Freedom of Religion" and think it should mean "Freedom FROM religion". There is nothing in the constitution that states people can't engage in Christian prayer. If someone on the board protested or was of a different faith, they can choose not to participate and have their own moment of silence while the Christians are praying. If an atheist is truly bothered by the prayer, they must be questioning their own beliefs (or lack there of) which makes them uncomfortable but shows they really need to do some soul-searching as to why it bothers them.

    Mr. Helsley, take note:
    A religiously neutral state is the essential chief guarantee of personal religious freedom.

    I have attended Shenandoah Board of Supervisors meetings. Yes, someone always voices a Christian based prayer. I am offended this agency of government shows religious favoritism.

    Religious favoritism was a problem plaguing America's Founding Fathers, as first one religion, then another, vied to become America's 'official' religion, converting democracy to theocracy.

    John Adams pointed out, though without too much optimism, the secret weapon that secularists had at their disposal -- namely the profusion of different religious factions:

    · "The multitude and diversity of them, You will say, is our Security against them all. God grant it. But if We consider that the Presbyterians and Methodists are far the most numerous and the most likely to unite; let a George Whitefield arise, with a military cast, like Mahomet, or Loyola, and what will become of all the other Sects who can never unite?"

    George Whitefield was the charismatic preacher who is so superbly mocked in Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. Of Franklin it seems almost certainly right to say that he was an atheist ( Gerry Weinberger's excellent recent study Benjamin Franklin Unmasked being the best reference here ), but the master tacticians of church-state separation, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were somewhat more opaque about their beliefs.

    In passing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom -- the basis of the later First Amendment -- they brilliantly exploited the fear that each Christian sect had of persecution by the others. It was easier to get the squabbling factions to agree on no tithes than it would have been to get them to agree on tithes that might also benefit their doctrinal rivals.

    In his famous "wall of separation" letter, assuring the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, of their freedom from persecution, Jefferson was responding to the expressed fear of this little community that they would be oppressed by the Congregationalists of Connecticut. This same fear now grips the little community of Woodstock who seek to blame all non-Christians for removing their Christian prayers from government.

    This same divide-and-rule tactic may have won Jefferson the election of 1800 that made him president in the first place. In the face of a hysterical Federalist campaign to blacken Jefferson as an infidel, the Voltaire of Monticello appealed directly to those who feared the arrogance of the Presbyterians. Adams himself thought that this had done the trick. "With the Baptists, Quakers, Methodists, and Moravians," he wrote, "as well as the Dutch and German Lutherans and Calvinists, it had an immense effect, and turned them in such numbers as decided the election. They said, let us have an Atheist or Deist or any thing rather than an establishment of Presbyterianism." The little community of Woodstock should recognize this similarity to themselves.

    The essential point -- that a religiously neutral state is the chief guarantee of religious pluralism -- is the one that some of today's would-be Woodstock theocrats are determined to miss.

    Brooke Allen misses no chance to rub it in, sometimes rather heavily stressing contemporary "faith-based" analogies. She is especially interesting on the extent to which the Founders felt obliged to keep their doubts on religion to themselves. Madison, for example, did not find himself able, during the War of 1812, to refuse demands for a national day of prayer and fasting. But he confided his own reservations to his private papers, published as "Detached Memoranda" only in 1946.

    It was in those pages, too, that Madison expressed the view that to have chaplains opening Congress, or chaplains in the armed forces, was unconstitutional.

    Of all these pen-portraits of religious reservation, the one most surprising to most readers will probably be that of George Washington. While he was president, he attended the Reverend James Abercrombie's church, but on "sacramental Sundays" left the congregation immediately before the taking of communion. When reproached for this by the good Reverend, he acknowledged the reproof -- and ceased attending church at all on those Sundays which featured "the Lord's supper." To do otherwise, as he put it, would be "an ostentatious display of religious zeal arising altogether from his elevated station."

    Jefferson was content to take part in public religious observances and to reserve his scorn and contempt for Christianity for his intimate correspondents, but our first president would not give an inch to hypocrisy. In that respect, if in no other, the shady, ingratiating Parson Weems had him right.

    What Christians should take away from all of the above is the same government guarantees that protect Christians from all the other religions imposing their will also applies to Christians imposing their will on all the other religions.

    But to then have the little community of Woodstock demand county government endorse one religion, any one, is an abomination to all religious freedoms.

    Religion poisons everything.

    We have a lot more bigger problems in this country, state, and even in our own valley than saying a prayer at a public meeting. It's just amazing to me how people want to take God out of everything. The only thing that these people need is God in their lives...and something to do besides complain.

    Prayers are what these people need. I'll make sure to keep them in mine.

    maybe if they did a better job they wouldn't have to pray so much!

    This whole article makes no sense. It tied 3 different counties together to make a bunch of nonsense. It appears not even one complaint has been filed with Shenandoah County. So from title to mix in the whole story is misleading. Shame on you NVD!

    Well, it certainly does appear that members at the bottom of the Dominionist Empire Musical Chairs Party always choose mental slavery when they could choose freedom:


    I always find it funny how the Christian screams bloody murder how they are being oppressed. Yet can't seem to fathom.

    you are confusing freedom of religion to not getting whatever you want.

    This is not a Christian nation. Period. there is a long standing seperation. abide by it and quit you faux victimization.

    Use your own platform.... Don't tread on me!!!

    *Yet can't seem to fathom how they are imposing only their belifs, no other before their GOVERNMENTAL meetings..

    If the Supreme Court ruled it's unconstitutional then IT'S UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Plain and simple.
    They are the FINALLY say in how LAWS and the Constitution are interpreted. If you don't like it then change the Constitution so that they can agree with you.
    But until then you have to follow 'their' rules.

    Or don't you people want to 'obey' the law? If not, then we will have nothing but anarchy. And anyone can do as they please without any repercussions. But until then, it's the law.

    too many people out there still believing in that David Barton fellow and his Christian nation myths and falsehoods.

    Wall builders and the likes love this guy. Just ask Mike Huckabee, he'd like to make you listen to that garbage at "gunpoint" no less. (search for yourself)

    example: the gist of David Barton's "work"


    Thinking more on this story, its rather convenient that this whole makeshift story is put together the day before NVD officially endorses Willard. Rile up the "God fearin" folks and then point the way towards the right. Double shame on you NVD!

      Katybug anyone who can get whipped up over this story, was going to vote for the far right anyway, I believe.

        You are most likely correct, but I still think its a very shameful piece. I know paper editions are getting harder and harder to sell, but I'd thought better of our local paper in the "manufactured news" dept.

          And the endorsement merely regurgitates the same ole stuff the Republicans have been kicking around since day one, all or most proven to be a lie! And in the same paper, there's an article about Stocks higher on #Q profits and another about Homebuilder confidence rises.

          Gee can any of that happen with out Superman Romney saving the day?

          I would love to know who wrote this endorsement for NVD because it's really poorly written. I love the old "You didn't build this," so-called quote attributed to Obama. They conveniently leave out the total statement which has been discussed many times. And they claim this was Obama's insult to millions of hard-working people! I call the 47% (behind close doors) remark by Romney as the real insult.

          S.O.S. as usual but anyone who hasn't been able to figure out the LIES of this desperate party by now will probably need another source to repeat this worn out stuff.

          These people won't be happy until we have yet another careless war started in Iran. Maybe the people who vote for these warmongers, should enlist and find out what hell war really is! This country has a greater chance of dying from within than facing any imaginary foe.

    Good thing that no one of any consequence reads this.

    "The legal experts say sectarian prayer goes against case law and violates the U.S. Constitution."

    Well, here is the 1st Amendment of the Constitution; nowwhere does it mention "freedom from religion".

    Amendment I
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Simply put it states, Congress can't tell you what religion to believe in and Congress can't prohibit your from practicing your religion.

    Let them pray to whoever their God may be. God the father, Jesus, Budda, Allah, Jehovah, a tree, a stone, a cow, space aliens, or nobody at all. Give them thier space and give them a moment. Grow up!

    before telling anyone to "grow up" remember who it is worshiping an invisible man in the sky.

    of course it doesn't mean squat with your "legal experts", The SCOTUS has spoken, grow up and accept it.

    Simple solution: Bring the issue to a VOTE of the taxpayers, who pay for OUR government.

    Hey Humble, this isn't Mob rules . we the people are protected from the mob rules mentality Christians turning this country into a theocracy.

    so take that traitor talk and cram it.

    The USA is now far down the path to a theocracy, a Dominionist Empire that wants to control the whole world. The official policy sends in the drones to kill anybody who disagrees.


    this thread-

    "my religion is right and yours is wrong"

    Grow up, just because your christian doesn't mean you have the right to shove it down people's throats, why do all major religions have to be like cults and just strive on getting more "followers?" Just beleive what you want and keep to yourself. If they don't want them praying, don't pray aloud, pray to yourself, its not hurting anyone.

    From the beginning of our country, states, counties, and settlements leaders have begun meetings with prayer...and prayer to Jesus or the son or whatever. It's tradition, it does no harm to anyone and the people who complain about it are simply babies. I go to meetings and while I'm a christian I am not an any certain "denomination" so when someone who's denomination I know I disagree with prays I simply bow my head and listen. Grow up and get over it. Our traditions are not evil, no one has to agree, say amen or even bow their heads. If you don't like it, just ignore it. Over 200 years of starting meetings with prayer have not taken away anyone's rights. Can't we keep any American traditions?

      Of course the Christian would see no harm in their jesus prayer. Let a muslim or any other religion try it and they'd be ready to nail crosses together.

      kim, your "feelings" mean nothing to the Constitution.

      naaaa no denomination, but you do make a great profit on those Christian books don'tcha?

      your claiming no denomination is a falsehood and you know it Kim Bishop.

    I love these sensless comments on here. I'm going to throw the virgin Mary into the story, and wow it should blow up in all our faces....LOL.

    People live their own lives Lets just get along, I'm a former practicing catholic and I know what Mary stands for.

    Lets Just take care of our fellow humans and get along.

    Isopod Lover,
    Oh Conservative Me,
    kim bishop,

    Let us know when you start healing people with just your gaze.


    bwaaahhhhh hahahahahaha

    In his post above, TGFMMAA mentions the Jefferson letter to the Danbury Baptist Association to illustrate interdenominational fear, bickering, and posturing to become the official religion of our country. The Founding Fathers were having none of it.

    Here I repeat my post from March 23, 2012, reposted on April 6, 2012, reposted July 14, 2012, and reposted September 19, 2012;

    “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, 1960 speech.

    Why is the metaphorical phrase "separation of church and state" so widely used in America and why do religious zealots, the obvious beneficiaries of this doctrine, object so strenuously?

    The separation of church and state is the mandate that religious zealots have the biggest problem obeying. The EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question and separation of church and state advocates are not required to re-prove the origination of the doctrine separating church and state every time it is discussed. However, I choose to confront this propaganda anytime this doctrine's validity is challenged.

    I'll reference four sources to show how the phrase "separation of church and state" came into existence and why it has become the controlling language in many court decisions as well as everyday language
    1) The First Amendment to the United States Constitution which provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...." and Article VI specifies that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

    This is the foundation for the separation of church and state doctrine that has become the daily metaphor for a wall between church and state. So where, you must be asking yourself, in the Constitution does it say anything about separation of church and state? As we all know, it doesn't, so where does it come from?

    The First Amendment is the foundational document. From the foundation, here is where the path leads:

    2) Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. The original text reads: "... I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

    3) The U.S. Supreme Court, in Reynolds v. United States (1879), wrote that Jefferson's comments "may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment."

    4) In the U.S. Supreme Court decision Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), both Justice Hugo Black's majority opinion and Justice Wiley Rutledge's minority opinion both defined the First Amendment religious clause in terms of a "wall of separation between church and state". Justice Black wrote: "In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state."

    I am told many U.S. Supreme Court decisions after Everson v. Board of Education routinely and repeatedly reuse the phrase.


    hey Diane from above, probably 11 or so down from the article on here. The curse words are crazy!! But my shirt is a bit wet, so let us rejoice in the Lord!!!

    I have attended these meetings, as well as school board meetings in which they pray as well. And yes I have been offended. Being that I am a minority in my beliefs, I chose not to say anything but it did prompt me to research the laws. They are being obviously disregarded by our administrators. Why is prayer necessary at a government meeting? They are there for the function of ruling in the best interest of ALL people and that includes all religions or non religions. Take your personal time to pray before the meeting if you feel the need but leave it out of government. Religion is a personal decision and a personal experience, if you want to pray to a god with a group of people go to church. "E Pluribus Unum" was originally our nations motto, of many we are one. That promotes diversity and leaves no one out, that is the nation I believe in.

    Wow, you can feel the love flowing from the anti- God anti Christians on this feed. Prayer or not, I don't care, I'm just saying that all the founders you people love to quote had no problem with prayers before meetings. They had no problem saying our rights came from a creator and not government or men. The people insulting people of faith on this feed are disgusting. I have Muslim friends, Buhdist friends, Athiest friends, different denominational friends, Spirititst friends (infact "wondering" if you read the first review of my book it came from a spiritist, not a christian who happens to do gay marriages and seances), so don't try and stick me into one of your little boxes. I have no problem with people of other faiths.

    I have no problem saying I"m a Christian or that I make money selling a Christian book, I'm not ashamed of who I am or what I believe and I have NEVER tried to make anyone else believe what I do. Speaking an opinion; saying a prayer is not forcing someone to your belief. You seem to not have a problem forcing those who disagree with you to have to follow yours...two faced much? ...

    I await the "loving" comments soon to come.

    "I have Muslim friends, Buhdist friends, Athiest friends, different denominational friends, Spirititst friends "

    sure you do Kim. Just like those accused of racism have "black friends"

    you know as well as i do were the meetings opened with a jew or a muslim invoking a prayer, you Christians would go Jihad. Oh wait, they are doing that already aren't they............

    NEVER tried to make anyone else believe what I do. Speaking an opinion; saying a prayer is not forcing someone to your belief. ....

    Saying a christian prayer in a government meeting is a form of force in my opinion. It may be a fact that the majority of our nation follows christian beliefs, but it does not make us a christian nation. The government is to represent all of us. Why should a citizen attending one of these meetings be forced to be singled out when they do not bow their head in prayer? Pray any time or any place on your own time, but don't make it a part of a government meeting.

    And lets not kid ourselves...just because I see a man/women pray does not mean I can trust them. Hitler prayed too.

    The Founding Fathers decided on a 'wall of separation' between church and state, whether the Bible was true or not. In other words, religious and even Christian though many of them were, they wanted to insure against any future religious demagogy and opportunism, and for that purpose counted their own faith as one among many. This essential and unprecedented maturity is what marks the Founding Fathers different from their forerunners and their successors.

    Once you concede that humanity possessed numerous truths and values before the Bible, you may as well admit that Christianity is just another religion. Once the Church loses its monopoly and becomes just another competitor in the battle of ideas, it loses everything else that makes for the domination of faith.

    Half the time when you meet people who say they are churchgoing Christians, they don't know what they're supposed to believe, they don't believe all of it, they have a lot of doubt, and they go to church largely for social reasons. There aren't enough churches in the country to hold the hordes who boast of attending.

    In the ordinary way, nothing fuels the secular impulse more than a public competition of religions. Such a competition usually shows people that since not all religions can possibly be right, and since it is improbable that only one of them is right, one is justified in suspecting that all of them may be equally wrong.

    The atheist does not say and cannot prove that there is no deity. He or she says that no persuasive evidence or argument has ever been adduced for the notion. Surely this should place the burden on the faithful, who do after all make very large claims for themselves and their religions.

    Where is hatred and tribalism and ignorance most commonly incubated, and from which platform is it most commonly yelled? If you answered 'the churches' and 'the pulpits,' you got both answers right.

      The Englishman Thomas Paine's Age of Reason marks almost the first time that frank contempt for organized religion was openly expressed. It had a tremendous worldwide effect. His American friends and contemporaries, including many framers of the U.S. Constitution, were partly inspired by Paine to declare independence from the Hanover usurpers and their private Anglican Church of England.

      It was these non-believers in the American Colonies who achieved an extraordinary and unprecedented thing that governs all U.S. citizens today: The writing of a democratic and republican Constitution that made no mention of god and that mentioned religion only when guaranteeing that it would always be separated from the state. This separation of church and state is the mandate that religious zealots and evangelical fundamentalists have the biggest problem obeying.

      Freedom from religion is also a fundamental right -- the right to be secular, not to be bothered by it. All major confrontations over the right to free thought, free speech, and free inquiry have taken the same form -- of a religious attempt to assert the literal and limited mind over the ironic and inquiring one.

      The work of Christian evangelical fundamentalism is never done. Totalitarian systems, whatever outward form they may take, are fundamentalist and, as we would now say, 'faith-based.' If religion is so damned peaceful, then why are we fighting zealots and fundamentalists on so many fronts?

      During the Civil War between the States, the motto of the Confederacy was Deo Vindice, or "God on Our Side." Atlanta was burned to ashes by people who thought that the same god took the other view and was on the side of the Union.

      Two peoples, same god, different results. No wonder religion makes people crazy.

      Religion poisons everything.

    Hey rick, not much of a constitutional scholar are ya? your "feelings" mean nothing to the Constitutional protections layed out by our founding fathers.

    how about I come to your church with a sermon on the church of satan. after all I can pray anywhere and any time I want right?

    or is this more of the faux Christian attempting to force their religion as "the one" just like your AQ counterparts?

    again I say, take your religion and your sense of theocracy in America and cram it down your christian taliban throat. I too am protected from YOU.

    How about we keep the man in the sky out of reality. fables belong in childrens books.

    Mr. Litten,
    Try as I might, I can not, as you suggest, "get over it".

    Unless I am mistaken, the tone of your post seems to indicate you think your freedom to pray is being attacked. In this instance, I believe you are mistaken.

    We agree you may pray aloud or silently, privately or publicly, anytime, anywhere, to your hearts content; not an issue. (although if you choose to pray aloud during a criminal court proceeding, you will probably be ejected, or worse, held in contempt if you ignore the judge)

    We do not agree you may insert your private non-silent prayer into a government function. Further, I disagree allowing an agenda item encompassing a 'moment of silence' is acceptable as it's intent is to introduce prayer into government, not self-analytical introspection. The separation of church and state is the issue.

    Perhaps the absurdity of the situation may be demonstrated by saying if you allow non-silent prayer during government functions, ALL religions must be equally represented; the people who are praying must meld together the mentioning of Mohammed, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Satan while facing towards Mecca then say a few Hail Mary's instead of Amen while doing a little dance and waving snakes in the air?

    Should you suggest the remedy is the creation of a 'non-denominational' prayer? How exactly does that subvert the joining of religion and government?

    It is an issue because inserting a religious prayer or religious text or religious ideology into a government function attempts to co-mingle the function of religion with the function of state. If I do not allow MY church to control government functioning why in the world should I allow YOUR church to control government functions?

    America is not a theocracy, where religion controls everything. Religious law is not the law of the land.

    America is a democratic republic with a government controlled by a majority vote of its citizens. Constitutional law is the law of the land.

    This separation of church and state is the mandate that religious zealots and evangelical fundamentalists have the biggest problem obeying. Yours and mine, our America is a republic, not a theocracy.

      So Buck - You have a Church? I 'll bet they are REAL GRATEFUL for your support! Thing is, I have not specified acertain religion. THAT would be unconstitutional. I only say that people should be allowed to aknowledge that there may be a Deity who gives a rat's patootie; whom we may implore for guidance. Should that be a Christian denomination, who knows? There are literally hundreds of Churches in his name. To say SPECIFICALLY that we must be Lutheran as Norway did until very recently - THAT would be wrong.

    For all of those complaining about prayer and God, you can donate your money to many needy organizations since the words "In God We Trust" are on it.

    I have a $10 bill right here in my hand where there is NO mention of that invisible man any where on it..

    You religious nuts rammed that crap through in the 1950's.

    next you'll claim that's not true too I bet.

    oh, sorry I was looking at a 20

    wondering, turn your 10 over, unless you use counterfeit money,

    Actually it is a 1950 and there is NO MENTION of your invisible man. because the history is what I said above

    "You religious nuts rammed that crap through in the 1950's."

    Look it up for yourself if you don't believe me. look up a 1950 $10 bill while you're at it. Some how we all survived up til then without that myth on the money. After that greed and selfishness became the norm..... what a coincidence.

    It sounded like you were looking through tunnel vision actually. read your history!

    Here's the $10 bill (from the net)


    Nice juke on the money.....

    That's the thing, I don't force my beliefs on ANYONE. So how about a reach around?

    I don't hold my beliefs up as a shield to do awful things to other human beings or my fellow citizens either though. I mean other than the troops part, the majority of you are simply like Fred Phelps. It's all about invoking yourself and your religion onto ALL of us here in America and into the rest of the world as well.

    There is but one religion trying to change the Constitutionl to "Gods" law in America in 2012....The Christian.
    ( you'll note mormonism has been accepted now by the former)

    How can a grown man still read these myths and fables and somehow accept them as fact? (Get em young, right?)

    God wrote nothing, some mortal guys did, then a King rewrote the one you hold so close. Think McFly, Think.

    You must be a politician, you didn't answer my questions, or maybe you dont have answers what are your beliefs and what is your purpose

    "That's the thing, I don't force my beliefs on ANYONE. So how about a reach around?"

    pretty clear to me. maybe not for the intentionally obtuse though.

    It sure sounds like somebody trying to set up an evangelical zinger fishing around with "What is your purpose"?

    Stand by. I hear it coming.... Here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown... The purpose of life is to enjoy it... the more you zing, the better you enjoy.

    Should I expect the Jesus riding Dino nuttery now?

    Sorry but not much on the Christian circle jerk.

    Horus is laughing..........

    not sure whom Buck is but as to your second post, Do I have to press one for english Rick?

    Mr. Litten, as you finesse your justification for religion as a co-equal partner (or should that be a superior partner?) with state control of society, I would like to propose a few conversation starters for your thoughtful consideration:

    Among your many convictions, do you believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute?

    If it were to be shown conclusively that Moses and Jesus and Mohammed were mythical figures, and their "books" man-made and not god-made, would all our moral dilemmas not be exactly what they are now? Or would you consider this news a personal tragedy?

    Why did heaven leave the human race to suffer and die alone for the first one hundred thousand years of its existence, and only decide to intervene in the last few thousand years, and then only in illiterate and barbaric regions of the Middle East? Why omit Orientals?

    Does discussion of personal religious faith belong in the public square?

    Do you believe the function of state is incomplete without the guidance of religion?

    Is it possible that any god kills family members in order to reunite them with loved ones later on?

    Do you think secularism can provide moral authority (as religion does for its adherents)?

    Can you name an ethical statement or action, made or performed by a person of faith, that could not have been made or performed by a nonbeliever.

    Do you agree that religion causes sexual repression and ignorance that is harmful to children?

    Do you think religion's cultural contributions have outweighed the tribal conflicts it has provoked?

    Do you believe there is a biological or psychological basis for religious faith?

    A spurious but still popular story goes that on his deathbed, Darwin recanted the theory of evolution and embraced Christ. Why do you think this story became popular? Does this say anything about our society?

    Do you believe an atheist could be elected president of the United States?

    Should political speeches include the phrase, "God bless America"?

    What do you make of the idea that religion gives people "bad reasons to behave well"?

    Does atheism provide us with any "good" reasons to behave well?

    Do you agree with the central paradox at the core of religion that the three great monotheisms teach people to think abjectly of themselves as miserable and guilty sinners prostrate before an angry and jealous god while also teaching people to be extremely self-centered and conceited by assuring them that god cares for them individually and that the cosmos was created with them specifically in mind?

    Does religion poison everything?

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