My hometown newspaper ran a story from Winston Salem, NC. Here it is:
Court: County board's pre-meeting prayers
shouldn't mention Jesus
The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners was wrong to allow opening prayers at its meetings that singled out praise for a specific deity, a federal appeals court ruled late last week.
In a 2-1 decision, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., on July 29 ruled in favor of two county residents. Janet Joyner and Constance Blackmon sued after a local religious leader offered a prayer before a December 2007 commission meeting that thanked God for allowing the birth of his son to forgive us for our sins and closed with a reference to the name of Jesus.
The decision upholds a lower court ruling that required commissioners to stop pre-meeting prayers.
“Legislative prayer must strive to be nondenominational so long as that is reasonably possible — it should send a signal of welcome rather than exclusion. It should not reject the tenets of other faiths in favor of just one,” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in his ruling.
Judge Paul Niemeyer disagreed, writing in his dissent that Forsyth County allowed believers of any religious faith to give the opening prayer, negating the effect of having a prayer champion only one set of beliefs.
“I respectfully submit that we must maintain a sacred respect of each religion, and when a group of citizens comes together, as does the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, and manifests that sacred respect — allowing the prayers of each to be spoken in the religion’s own voice — we must be glad to let it be,” Niemeyer wrote.
But Wilkinson pointed out in his ruling that more than three-quarters of the 33 invocations given from May 2007 to December 2008 referred to “Jesus,” “Jesus Christ,” “Christ” or “Savior.”
One of the lawyers who presented the case said he planned to recommend that the Forsyth County commissioners appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The July 29 opinion disagrees with decisions by other appeals courts in similar cases, apparently creating a dispute only the nation’s highest court can decide, attorney Mike Johnson said.
“The idea that a legislative body would have to censor the speakers who come in on a rotational basis to offer an invocation is unprecedented,” Johnson said.
The legal director for Americans United, a group that backed the two residents along with the American Civil Liberties Union, said government should never give any indication it prefers one faith over the other.
“When Americans go to government meetings, they should feel welcome regardless of their beliefs about religion,” Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan said.
During the December 2007 meeting, both plaintiffs felt “coerced by [their] government into endorsing a Christian prayer,” the 4th Circuit said in its opinion.
Blackmon, one of the plaintiffs, said late last week that she was pleased with the panel’s decision.
“I am very happy with the court’s ruling today because this court order preserves freedom of conscience for people of all different beliefs, whether they are in the majority or the minority, by requiring our government to remain neutral in matters of religion,” Blackmon said July 29 in a statement released by the ACLU.
It isn't the story that has me riled up... it is the comments. The ignorance and hatefulness--in the name of GOD, mind you--is disturbing. Each one parrots the other. No logic. No discussion. Just supposition, assumptions and attacks. One commenter even "joked" about dragging people behind a truck because... well, because Jesus died for them!! Go on... read them!
Here is a response I've written to the story and the comments. (Some of this is borrowed from a previous post.) I haven't posted this yet. And don't know if I should. I've already been accused of being *gasp* a Muslim!! Next thing you know, they'll be calling me an atheist! Oh! I've already been called an atheist!
There is no conspiracy here to ban religion from society. The very idea is ridiculous. The point of this ruling is to not allow ANY religion to force it's doctrine upon a secular body. And a Board of Commissioners IS a secular, NOT a religious entity. This ruling protects Christians as much as anyone. How would you feel if the majority of the board were Baha'i or Buddhist and wished to open a meeting with chanting and meditation three fourths of the time??
I believe there is more proof that this country was NOT founded on Christian principles. Even our beloved Thomas Jefferson wrote:
"It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest"
And President John Adams wrote in the Treaty of Tripoli:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility [sic], of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never have entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
There seems to be an insinuation that you cannot be American unless you are a bible thumping fundamentalist. I disagree. I believe dissent is the highest form of patriotism. And I think this ruling was right.There is my rant for the day... :0)
No one is trying to take away the right to say Jesus. The matter at hand is whether one religion can impose it's doctrine of belief on a secular body. Besides that, the Constitution doesn't even mention Jesus because it was meant to be a SECULAR document, creating freedom for ALL religions to live and practice freely, without imposing personal beliefs onto others.
Matthew 6:5 admonishes those who wish to flaunt their prayers just to be seen and heard:
"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."
These are Jesus' words... and he continues in the next verse by saying,
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Matt. 6:6)
Perhaps why God is not blessing this country has more to do with Christians not getting in their closets and pleading with their God than with some imaginary attack on the Christian religion.
For those who want to drag people behind a truck... Wow?? Where is Jesus in that??
There are those who want everyone to "Vote the Bible" and who want to "Take America Back".
So my question is, back to where? To the 1950's or 1960's? Because things were more simple and times were better? Maybe they don't remember the fear of Communism and fall out shelters and practice air raid drills. And maybe they have forgotten that segregation was, more or less, the law of the land. And the Civil Rights act didn't get passed until 1964 and until then, racial segregation and discrimination were legal. And the Equal Pay act was only passed in 1963, which made wage differences based on gender illegal.
Maybe they want to go back to the 1880's when there were precious few regulations and no taxes to speak of. The average lifespan was forty. 50,000 Americans died of cholera because there were no clean water or sewage regulations. 1 in 5 children died in infancy... the numbers were higher for minorities. And women didn't even HAVE the right to vote, much less anyone else. So unless you were a white man or wanted to die trying, you had no voice.
Or maybe we need to go back further to a time when Natives Americans were treated as savages and forced to convert or be destroyed. And when darker skinned people were thought of as unintelligent and unteachable and were owned like property and worked like animals. And women were not allowed to own property and were thought of as incapable of having intelligence or independent thought. Animals today have more rights than Native Americans, African Americans and women did in the 1700's.
I know my questions seem facetious. But there is a level of extremism in such beliefs not unlike that of Al Qaeda. Take America back? From whom? Back to what? Do they want to take America back from ME? I've lived in this country all my life and voted since I was 18! Do they want to take America back from me because I may be more liberal than them? I don't have a right to my political beliefs?
Or maybe what they want to take back is the Constitution and they want to re-write it or revise it to suit them... or they want to add or take away from our Bill of Rights! You know, the ones that say things like,
"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."
The First Amendment pretty much gives you and me the right to practice any religion that we want... not just Christianity, but we can be Muslim, Hindu, Wiccan or even Atheist if we want to be. And that Amendment gives us the right to practice our religion with out having to live in fear of discrimination or harm. Yes, the Amendment also gives all those hootenannies the right to assemble with Glen Beck or Fred Phelps or any other loud mouth. But there is a limit to 'freedom of speech'!
"Speech is not protected by the First Amendment if the speaker intends to incite a violation of the law that is both imminent and likely... Speech that will cause, or has as its purpose, "imminent lawless action" (such as a riot) does not have constitutional protection."
I think creating an atmosphere where dragging someone behind a truck seems justifiable or where the insinuation that somehow you are less American because you don't walk lock step with religious extremism is unAmerican and unChristian.
So, how you doin'??