Translation - They think it's great that now they can use the government to force their brand or religion on the rest of us.
Religious leaders support diversity of prayer
Michael Clancy, The Republic | azcentral.com 7:51 a.m. MST May 6, 2014
Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing prayer before public meetings could have an effect on municipalities and school boards throughout Arizona.
Prayer has been an issue for the Glendale City Council and at school-board meetings in Mesa and Gilbert. Each dispute ended with the acceptance of prayers before meetings. Mesa so far has had prayers led by Christians and a Buddhist.
Prayers have been a regular practice at the Arizona Legislature, the Phoenix City Council and numerous other groups. Other places favor no prayer at all, or a moment of silence, and it is unknown whether they will change.
Prayer before meetings has been allowed since a 1983 court decision, and the latest decision, on a 5-4 vote in a case out of New York state, affirmed that ruling while adding that prayer is permissible even if it is entirely Christian in nature.
Local religious leaders generally support the idea of starting meetings with prayer, although some warn that slipping past the Supreme Court's limits could be done too easily.
Vernon Meyer, a pastor in the United Church of Christ and co-president of a liberal clergy group, No Longer Silent Clergy for Justice, posed a series of questions:
"Will Christians tolerate a Muslim prayer? Or a Wicca prayer? If there is one person who does not share our faith, will we let them pray, or will we assume that our prayer is superior? Will we always have people pray in Jesus' name even if they are Jewish or Muslim or Hindu? I don't think this is good unless we are willing to respect the wide diversity of faiths in our midst and pray inclusively instead of exclusively." [And the best way to do that is keep religion out of government]
Paul Eppinger, director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement, said he supports the decision "as long as it is interfaith."
Eppinger leads an organization with representation from 45 faith groups — fewer if all Christian groups are lumped together.
"If the mayor called me and asked to me arrange invocations from different faith groups for the six weeks, I could arrange that," he said. "It is important to recognize that a higher power, whatever you think that is, is part of all our lives." [And that statement offends those of us who don't believe in a higher power.]
He said he could not recall whether representatives of any of the smaller groups, including Sikhs, Jains or Hindus, ever led a pre-meeting prayer, but he said they should be allowed to.
John Dorhauer, president of the Arizona Ecumenical Council, a Christian organization, said his group has not taken a firm stand on the issue of prayers before public meetings, though he said members are honored when asked to pray at meetings or events. [Translation - they love to preach their favor of religion to others]
"Our denominational leaders present a spectrum of thoughts and opinions about this matter, and we have been unable to reach consensus on it," he said. [Which is why we should keep religion out of government]
Not everyone is supportive of prayer, even if it is diverse. [because many of us don't believe in the supernatural and realized prayer doesn't work]
Governing-board meetings of the Scottsdale Unified School District do not start with prayers but have occasionally included a moment of silence, such as in December 2012, just after the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Board President Bonnie Sneed said she doesn't see a need to change the practice.
"It has worked for us for many years," she said. "While mandating (a moment of silence) may cause a divide, I prefer an individual effort to seek personal guidance to do the right thing when making decisions for our students, our employees and our community."
Jill Humpherys, one of two Gilbert Public Schools board members who voted against bringing back prayer to the board room earlier this year, said school boards might be treated differently in the law.
"My understanding is that the law has held school boards to a different standard than municipal governments," she said. "It is more likely that there will be children present at school-board meetings."
Alessandra Soler, executive director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union, opposed the decision.
"Listening to government-sponsored group prayer shouldn't be a price of civic participation," she said. "Although this decision will likely be celebrated by those who want to enlist the power of government to promote their faith, it's important to note that the court did not say anything goes with respect to prayer at public meetings. There are still lines that can be crossed, and we'll continue monitoring government-sponsored prayer in Arizona to make sure it stays within constitutional limits."
Republic reporters Cathryn Creno and Mary Beth Faller contributed to this article.