Comments about ‘Supporters of prayer at government meetings file briefs with Supreme Court’

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Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6 2013 7:20 p.m. MDT

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Ultra Bob
Cottonwood Heights, UT

I personally don’t have any problem with prayers, public or private, so long as they are short prayers. Long prayers were the curse of my life in younger years. And I never outgrew it.

Beyond the notion of God, religions and churches are simply business organizations. They have a product to sell and use every opportunity to advertise and promote their business. Churches are the most elaborate and unique buildings in the world. Members often wear special clothing and jewelry and profess special eating habits. Public prayers are simply advertising. That is, as seen by the non-believers.

The problem with churches comes when they get involved with government. Just like any other business operations it would be great to have the force of government to mandate their product. The First Amendment gives the right of freedom of religion to churches not to individuals. In fact the entire Bill of Rights can be seen as a bill of rights for business rather than the mistaken notion that it applied to people.

In the colonies, the government and the church were closely aligned, so by the First Amendment the churches exempted themselves for Federal interference.

Centerville, UT

When the federal government established the First Amendment, thirteen states had established state religions, the amendment did not disallow the state religions. Only the federal government could not establish a federal religion. Over the next 30 or 60 years these 13 states eventually dropped their state sponsored religions.

The Skeptical Chymist


If omitting a prayer from a public meeting is an act of an atheist, then isn't the lack of a prayer before every TV program an act of an atheist? What about the lack of prayers before placing an order in a restaurant? Is that an act of an atheist? How about when the school bus driver omits a prayer when he restarts his bus after picking up children? Is that the act of an atheist? No - these are the acts of people simply going about their daily lives. Omitting a prayer before a government meeting is also just the act of people going about their lives.

People who are used to having the power to force their religion on everyone (thereby violating the religious freedom of others) somehow think that if that power is restricted it is setting up atheism as the state religion. Not saying a prayer is NOT the same thing as actively denying that God exists. It is simply being considerate of those whose beliefs may differ.

There can be no freedom OF religion if there is not freedom FROM religion. Why is this so hard to understand?

Centerville, UT

the argument is based on the premise atheism is a religion, (belief their is no deity) (formal organizations promoting the belief). You are right the lack of, does not establish, atheism as a state religion, but the act of governments stepping in and preventing others from acts of religion that differs and is a limit of religious freedom. There can be no freedom OF religion if there is not freedom FROM religion, but the argument fails when atheist organize in formal groups, proselytize their beliefs and attempt to suppress other religions expressions under the banner freedom from religion.

Pleasanton, CA

The rights of a minority should be respected, but the rights of the majority should not be held hostage to the whims of a tiny minority.

G L W8

FYI: Robert Bellah's writings refer to "Civil Religion in America," or "American Civil Religion". It is fairly common practice to use the term "civil religion" in a more generic sense.

Posts on all sides of this issue illustrate one thing: we have changed the definition of tolerance.

Steve C. Warren

The Salt Lake County Council, West Valley City and a number of other local governments have an opening ceremony or observance before their meetings, which allows for a reading, thought, prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, song, etc.

This kind of an opening seems like a permissible exercise of free speech, as long as the person presenting the ceremony chooses what to say.

What I don't like is when entities such as Congress and the Utah Legislature make prayer a required part of the agenda. That becomes a government endorsement of religion. When our political leaders insist on forcing all present to sit through a religious exercise, they bring to mind the scripture: "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me." (Matt. 15:8)

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@jsf – “the argument is based on the premise atheism is a religion, (belief their is no deity)”

Again, this is simply wrong. First, it violates the logical law of non-contradiction - A (belief) cannot also be not-A (non-belief).

Or think about it this way – do you have a “belief” there is no Zeus? Or what if I told you the Universe is ruled by a 17 headed demon named Dexter? Would your not believing me or even asking for evidence that such a being exists be the same as saying “I have a belief that Dexter does not exist?”

Do you see the difference?

@Steve C. Warren – “they bring to mind the scripture… (Matt. 15:8)”

Matthew 6:5-6 I think is apropos here as well.

David in CA
Livermore, CA

To: CHS 85

The "Under God" was added in 1954, Not 1952!! Attempts to add it were already in motion
by 1952. 1952 was an Election year: Stevenson vs. Eisenhower. 1954 was during President Eisenhower's years.

Go to Wikipedia and look for "Pledge of Allegiance".

The kids in school in 1954 had to RE-Learn the Pledge of Allegiance. Many of their
teachers wrote it on the blackboard with emphasis on the two "new" words that were added.

G L W8

Tyler D., your logic is sound, but ignores one very significant phenomenon: language changes over time. If the majority of the human race continues to view atheism as a religion, that connotation will attach itself to the definition, logical or not. A lexicographer could perhaps give us some clue as to whether this is happening to the extent that some of us suspect it is. But I agree it makes no logical sense if one looks at the definition in the strictest literal usage of the term, not to mention its etymology.

Salt Lake City, UT

When will people ever learn? It is fine and dandy to have a prayer until, for example, someone decides to give a Muslim prayer, or when somebody is praying as they would in a Jewish community. Do the baptists care if it is a Catholic prayer? You bet they do! There is a reason for separation of Church and State!If you don't believe it, just imagine what it would be like here if we allowed religion into government and the biggest religion was Muslim! Would all you Christians like being told what to do then? You cannot separate the two completely, but there are good reasons not to mix church with government. It doesn't take much brains to know why!

let's roll

Best idea I've seen so far: set apart two minutes at the start of each session to allow a constituent to provide an inspirational moment. They could choose to pray, to read a quote, to offer a nugget of wisdom, to stand silent, or I suppose, to read tarot cards.

If a sincere prayer offered by someone of another faith would truly offend someone not of that faith, even more reason for them to hear that prayer.

We would all benefit from experiencing others methods of seeking wisdom, some may resonate with us, some may not. Lest anyone deem it to be a complete waste of time, consider how many hours (not minutes) of our lives have been spent watching commercials.

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