September 4, 2006

VA Councilman Sues for Jesus

In this strange story out of Fredericksburg City, VA, and picked up by the Associated Press, a member of the city council brought a legal challenge against the council's requirement that prayers during their meetings be nonsectarian. That sentence raises several questions, doesn't it? For example, why does a city council feel that prayer of any kind during their meetings is appropriate? Or is this guy really suing to protect his right to invoke Jesus during government meetings?

The background of this case is that the council had a situation with a prior member refusing to stop praising Jesus when it was his turn to give the opening prayer at council meetings. In response to threats of legal action by the Virginia ACLU, the council adopted a nonsectarian prayer policy. They would still open every meeting with a prayer, but the prayers were now to be inclusive to persons of all religious faiths (screw those damn atheists).

Fast forward to a year later. Now we have a case where a member of the same city council decided to challenge this nonsectarian requirement in court. He framed it as an issue of free speech, but his intent seems fairly obvious. He didn't want to deliver inclusive prayers; he wanted to praise Jesus specifically. Fortunately, the judge in the case ruled that official prayers delivered at the start of council meetings cannot promote Christianity because they count as "government speech."

Here is the part that confuses me: the judge's ruling may apply only to the official opening prayer and does not limit the councilman's right to deliver Jesus-filled prayers during the rest of the meetings. Huh? Does this mean that sectarian prayers are permissible during meetings of government agencies as long as they do not occur in the first few minutes of the meeting?

Christians, I really don't have any problem at all with you praising Jesus at church or in the privacy of your own home. I think you are wrong to believe in something for which no supporting evidence exists, but I support your right to practice your religion at home or church. I also support your right to stand on a street corner and spout your Jesus nonsense at passersby. What I do not support is this apparently overwhelming need many of you seem to do this in government buildings, meetings, or in my workplace. If you have trouble understanding this, think about how the right of neo-Nazi skinheads to march in public does not translate into them being able to share their hate in some official government capacity or in my workplace.

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