August 21, 2009

Prayer Has No Place in Government Meetings

U.S.Image via Wikipedia

Opening the meetings of various governmental bodies with prayer is inappropriate, exclusionary, and blatantly unconstitutional. It represents an abuse of power and a transparent attempt to advance a religious agenda, even if it is only some generic god belief that is being advanced. No person present at such a meeting is prohibited from silently praying (as the Christian bible would seem to endorse), and so there are no viable reasons to formalize prayer by making it part of either the official agenda or a required custom. Atheists across the U.S. should be prepared to challenge this practice, not to stamp out religion but to separate it from the halls of power.

As Austin Cline writes,
There is ultimately only one reason for such prayers: to have the government endorse, support, promote, and/or encourage the religious beliefs of one group of citizens over and above the beliefs of all other citizens. Apparently, some religious believers — and they always turn out to be Christians, don't they? — are unable or unwilling to keep their religion a matter of personal faith. Instead, they need for their religion to be sponsored in some way by the government.
Just how widespread is the practice of including prayer at official government meetings? From what I have been able to gather, it seems to be far more common than most of us probably realize. We see it at the federal level in the U.S. Congress itself, at state legislatures across America, and in many local government meetings.

I do not buy the claim that these prayers are somehow symbolic and void of any religious significance. If that was the case, those who insist upon them, would not fight so hard to maintain the practice.

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