February 2, 2008

Christian Politicans in Iowa Object to Opening Prayer

Iowa legislators are up in arms over the prayer that opened their session. Could it be that they are finally coming around to the realization that such prayers have no place in government and are an embarrassing relic of ancient superstition? Not quite. Instead, they are upset because the opening prayer was delivered by a Muslim Imam instead of a Christian.

According to the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, it sounds like the prayer was extremely inappropriate regardless of its source, calling for "victory over those who disbelieve." And yet it sounds like the objections, mostly coming from evangelicals (go figure), focus on the fact that the prayer came from a Muslim.

Pastor Steve Smith of the Evangelical Free Church admits not knowing much of anything about Islam but is nevertheless concerned that "victory over those who disbelieve" is "a request in the Iowa Legislature for God to grant the Muslims victory over every non-muslim (sic). Not a request for salvation." Yeah, don't confuse his concern with the realization that there are millions of atheists in his country. The real issue is that this strikes him as overly political and not sufficiently focused on "salvation."

Of course the prayer was inappropriate! It was inappropriate because America is a secular democracy with a Constitution that sure sounds an awful lot like we are supposed to keep religious lunacy out of official government business. It was inappropriate because, like any public expressions of religion by political figures, it is inherently divisive. It was inappropriate because it clearly disparaged nonbelievers, some of whom probably reside in Iowa. The fact that it was a Muslim prayer does not make it any more or less appropriate than a similar Christian prayer.

This and many similar issues are easily resolvable. End the practice of having public prayers of any sort in our state and federal legislative bodies. Let our representatives pray silently if they so desire, much like our public school children can. But cease the divisive practice of public prayer led by various clergy in government meetings.

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