Comments about ‘Mesa school board reinstates prayer before meetings’

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Published: Monday, June 2 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Cedar City, UT

I wish you would have shared the suggestions for prayers in a diverse group. I remember hearing suggestions that we avoid praying for specific religious leaders, like the Mormon Prophet or the Pope. If we end our prayer with "In the name of our Lord and Savior" we would be including Jews. If we ended our prayer with "In the name of the One True God" maybe we could include Muslims. Or we could we start our prayer addressing "the Creator of the Universe" to include our Atheist friends. Mostly we would be asking for a higher power to bless our efforts and help us be more respectful and loving of each other. What are your thoughts?

Farmington, Utah

@Larene, if they have people of different religions offering prayers, then let them pray as they do in their religion. To ask someone to offer a prayer that would be "all inclusive" for a diverse group is ridiculous. That alone is taking away religious freedom.

Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT

Love to hear it!

Sorry liberals - its legal. Don't like it? Tough. Deal with it


Huntsville, UT

@Chris B;

Next time I'm at a public meeting, I'm going to ask to pray. I'll pray to satan - just because.

I want to see some conservative heads explode when I reply to the criticism: "its legal, Don't like it? Tough. Deal with it."

Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT


And in the meantime I get to enjoy libs heads exploding!

Hooray for prayers in public meetings. So great!

The Wraith
Kaysville, UT

Our heads aren't exploding Chris B just shaking. I'm not angry just disappointed. I prefer the absolute separation of church and state favored by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. I believe that this absolute line leads to a much better government and much better laws. Allowing religion into the government only harms both religion and government.

J. Richardson

@The Wraith,
I, too, am a supporter of the separation of church and state. That's why I'm a huge fan of letting folks, of any religion, offer prays in public settings. No one here is advocating that a state sponsored church say these prayers. Anyone, from any religion has the opportunity to offer a prayer. Hence, the "separation from church and state" is fully in tact. Did you hear me? Religion, not church. When you say "absolute separation of church and state", what you are really saying is that you want God out of anything that has to do with local, state or federal government. So be honest about it, please. Most people in our society believe in God and are very comfortable with the religious principles upon which the country was founded, and are happy to honor those principles through a celebration of all religious traditions...as this new policy in Mesa does.

A Scientist
Provo, UT

Some peoples partisanship demonstrates that their heads exploded long ago.

If the person praying before a group is not praying on behalf of the group (I.e., leading the group in prayer), but is instead just offering a personal prayer in public, then what is the point? Say your personal prayers in private. But if the person praying (acting as "voice" for the group) is supposed to be leading the group in prayer, to which everyone is supposed to say "amen", then the voice is obligated to make an all inclusive prayer.

If you refuse to be inclusive in public gatherings, you do not belong in public gatherings, least of all praying in them.

The Wraith
Kaysville, UT

@J. Richardson

That is certainly one interpretation of separation. It's just not the one I support. If you noticed I said I prefer the idea of absolute separation favored by Jefferson and Madison. I did not say it was the only interpretation, just the one that I think is the best one. Madison and Jefferson actually took a position that was more absolute than even the modern ACLU. Madison felt that Army chaplains were a violation of the 1st Amendment. He warned in many of his writings against the "danger of silent accumulations & encroachments by Ecclesiastical Bodies" into government. Jefferson would not even issue a national declaration of prayer or even one of thanksgiving (not just to god but even a general one) because he felt it was a violation of the 1st amendment. He refused to do so even under severe political pressure and didn't his 8 years in office. Madison only issued a few during the War of 1812 and later said they ranked as some his greatest regrets from his time in office.

Again, I understand your interpretation I just don't think it's the correct one.

Socal Coug
San Diego, CA

My goodness, have you heard these prayers? I don't understand the problem with someone praying that the meeting can "be productive" or "that we can unite together" or "that we can support the will of the people". Where is the harm in this?
As you bow your head, or just listen, or whatever....what is it exactly that you're opposing? As "A Scientist" said, it's not praying on behalf of the group. Even prayers within religious organizations vary greatly based on who is giving it. But that's in a totally different setting than this.
These are generic prayers, and harmless. Are there guidelines to the prayers? Do they have to pray to a God that Wraith or Ranch or anyone don't believe in?
I doubt it. I imagine the person giving the prayer can say, "We are gathered this day to come together as citizens of Mesa and we pray that we can be productive in our efforts and represent the....blah blah. Amen." Heck, if you don't agree with that, don't say "amen".

J. Richardson

@ Wraith,

Fair enough. However, regardless of his personal preference, Jefferson established a definition of separation of church and state: "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." The Mesa school board is neither making law to establish a particular religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Inclusion of religious influence and principles has been the established precedent from day one of our Republic. And while our American experiment is relatively short on history, its success is unquestioned. If you could provide an example of success from another country or system of government wherein religious influence is voided, then perhaps your thesis that society free from the government/religion mix is better would have credence. The only absolute system that comes to mind is Communism, and some would say that Communism is preferred. I am not one of those. My guess is neither are you. Absolutism can only lead to extremism and extremism in government only leads to disaster. Anyway, take care and thanks for the discussion.

The Wraith
Kaysville, UT

J. Richardson

You should find a different founder to support your argument. Perhaps John Adams or Even Washington. Jefferson would have not been happy about allowing prayer in even a local meeting. That's why I chose him as my reference point. I may not believe in any of these religions but I absolutely believe that allowing any kind of religion, even something as simple as praying before a public meeting, as harmful not just to government but to the religion itself. For people who want to secure religious freedom they should be the ones fighting for the strongest separation.

Princeton, TX

Many people, especially atheists and agnostics argue that the separation of Church and State means that God cannot be brought up in any secular situation. That is not what it means. It means that our government cannot make us attend a federal-sanctioned church - force us to worship in only one certain way. It's a protection of religion from secularism, not the other way around. To quote Jefferson himself as he spoke about the United States Bill of Rights: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that THEIR LEGISLATURE SHOULD 'MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

J. Richardson


I only used Jefferson as an example because you used him. His definition of the separation of church and state is spot on, regardless of his personal feelings. Of course the preponderance of the Founding Fathers felt religion to be an important aspect of public and private society. Their support of such is too voluminous to mention here in this silly little comments section of an online newspaper. You are certainly welcome to your opinion on religion, I'm only inviting you to give proof to said opinion "that allowing any kind of religion, even something as simple as praying before a public meeting, as harmful not just to government but to the religion itself." I don’t think an example of success where government and religion are mutually exclusive exits, but I am willing to listen. Otherwise, I’ll just stick with historic, constitutional, and statutory precedent as opposed to unsupported opinion.

The Wraith
Kaysville, UT

@take2ndbreath and J. Richardson

Actually an absolute separation is exactly what it means. It's exactly what Madison wanted it to mean when he wrote it. The government should be worried about laws and legal matters and have nothing to do with any kind of religion at all. The support for that is easily found in many of the founding fathers writings. However, in the end it doesn't really matter what they intended or not because their number one intention was that we solve our own problems in our own times and having an absolute separation is imperative to the survival of the church as well as the state. There are AMPLE examples out there. Religion having too much power in a government gets you states like those we seen now in the Middle East where Islam is the government. But it can go the other way as well. Look no further than the Church of England. Still the official church in the U.K. and just how much power does it have in the country. While I would love to see christianity fade into meaninglessness I'm guessing you don't

J. Richardson


Using Islamic states as the example of why government and religion can't mix (as per the US Constitution, US law and US history) is a straw man argument of epic proportions. No one here is arguing that Sharia law or Christian law, for that matter, should supplant what we have in the US. Try again. Near as I can tell, you are arguing for Communism. And speaking of extremism, or as you put forth, absolutism, your statement "I would love to see Christianity fade into meaninglessness" is truly extreme. What would you have replace the role of religion in our great American society today? Because voids are always filled with something. Godlessness? Atheism? Communism? Perhaps you would argue that we should all put our full faith and trust in the government with no thought to the good that religious thought brings to the playing field. If your only argument is that because Sharia law as a governing system is bad, therefore the U.S. Constitution is wrong and Christianity must therefore go away, well then, Sir, you are quite the curious outlier. Your position is not tenable, at least not based on the words you are choosing.

Mesa, AZ

The Supreme Court put an end to this legal debate last month.
USA Today, May 5, 2014
"WASHINGTON: The Supreme Court on Monday narrowly upheld the centuries-old tradition of offering prayers to open government meetings, even if the prayers are overwhelmingly Christian and citizens are encouraged to participate.
The 5-4 ruling, supported by the court's conservative justices and opposed by its liberals, was based in large part on the history of legislative prayer dating back to the Framers of the Constitution."
You can read the full article online.

gambier, oh

What a great opportunity to bring the community together and have communion with God. A sincere prayer by any person, weather it be to a God we all know and worship or to one a little less recognizable, still brings the opportunity for peace and to allow the Holy Ghost to influence the group hearing it. Can an atheiest pray, sure they can, they can bring their moment of silence, a philosophical statement, whatever, as long as it is done in a sincere and respectful way. I agree with fowersjl, pray as you believe, then the next person can pray to Apollo if desired, but pray in sincereity, then it will all make its way up to God, our Heavenly Father and will be answered as he saees fit.

A Scientist
Provo, UT

As I have said before, those of us in attendance at public meetings, who do not believe in fairy tales nor deities, will simply ignore the superstitious murmuring, and speak more loudly to the person across the room about the business at hand.

There can be no law forcing me or anyone else to participate in nor to show deference for such irrelevancies at a public gathering.



No one is asking for your participation or deference, only that you respect the rights and beliefs of others in a public setting. To talk during a public prayer would show disrespect for your fellow citizens.

You have an opinion that prayer is irrelevant at a public gathering. 95% of the public has another opinion. You can have your opinion, but in a truly "tolerant" society we respect all opinions, even when we disagree.

The liberals left this idea in the dust long ago. That is why I left the Democratic Party. Self-righteous babble is cheap. Respect for all people is rare...

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