Supporters of prayer at government meetings file briefs with Supreme Court

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  • let's roll LEHI, UT
    Aug. 10, 2013 10:33 p.m.

    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.

  • RFLASH Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 9, 2013 3:47 p.m.

    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!

    Aug. 8, 2013 8:34 a.m.

    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.

  • David in CA Livermore, CA
    Aug. 7, 2013 6:49 p.m.

    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.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 7, 2013 4:10 p.m.

    @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.

  • Steve C. Warren WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 3:24 p.m.

    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)

    Aug. 7, 2013 3:22 p.m.

    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.

  • hermounts Pleasanton, CA
    Aug. 7, 2013 2:13 p.m.

    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.

  • jsf Centerville, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 1:10 p.m.

    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.

  • The Skeptical Chymist SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 12:26 p.m.


    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?

  • jsf Centerville, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 10:37 a.m.

    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.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 10:14 a.m.

    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.

  • Eliyahu Pleasant Grove, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 10:12 a.m.

    Opening public meetings with prayers that fit the requirements of one religion or another is replete with issues. For instance, the prayers of one religion may be offensive to members of a different religion. A church may believe that women should not pray in public, or that prayers must be done "in Jesus name" and that other formats are a mockery. Suppose a Wiccan, Satanist or Muslim wants to open with prayer? Will those Christians in attendance find that acceptable? All of these things make some other members of the public feel excluded or sidelined. Of course one could offer a generic "to Whom it may concern" sort of prayer, but that meets the needs of no one and makes the prayer an official formality; something that is clearly prohibited by the Constitution. The best thing is for people to do as the Christian Bible says and offer their prayers in private rather than making them a public show.

  • jsf Centerville, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 10:12 a.m.

    Atheists have demanded the establishment of Atheist chaplains in the U.S. Military, thus establishing Atheism as a recognized religion. In 1962, a supreme court judge recognized that atheism was a religion. Thus any act by the government responding to an atheist to demand the end of religious acts by those believing in a god, is government violating the establishment clause of the constitution.

    Scientist is actually saying, we will eventually help to remove (deists) acts and establish atheism as the state religion of government, in violation of the constitution. Not really an act of a true lover of Democracy and freedom. But an act of repression by a minority. Remember Democracy, means everyone has a vote, which means the majority selects policies for the whole. Why do people think that if they have an idea, Democracy will allow their minority to set policies. In our country we have a method that is not democratic for preventing repression of minorities, it is called the Supreme Court. Democracy is overruled. Example, Prop 8. Democracy created it, the court voided the democratic election.

  • TimBehrend Auckland NZ, 00
    Aug. 7, 2013 10:11 a.m.

    WRK: I don't see anywhere in there where it specifies any location that needs to be exempt from this freedom of (not freedom from - read it, I have supplied it for you) religion.

    The common understanding, and the legal interpretation, of religious freedom is not the same now as it was 200+ years ago. Nothing is understood now the way it was then. Religious freedom is widely recognised, and judicially confirmed, to include the exclusion of religious bias, preference, or identity from state spaces. This applies in parts of the country where 99.9% of the populace adheres to cognate beliefs as well as parts of the country where religious pluralism is pronounced.

    With respect to your characterisation of 'science' as a religion, you misconstrue the claims that the scientific world view makes. Science is a methodology of experimentation and comparison. It is not a fixed belief system. Indeed, the sciences continually and consistently change. Conclusions of the past, based on a subset of the data that we possess now, are regularly rejected. Religions, particularly in the sense of ecclesiastical institutions like the Corporation of the LDS First Presidency, don't exhibit this type of self correction. Rather the opposite.

  • WRK Riverton, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 9:53 a.m.


    As long as your religion does not "step" on the toes of others, worship "how, where, or what you may."

    What do you mean "bring it on." The founding fathers brought it on and gave freedom of religion to all, even you. Have a great time worshiping "what you may."

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 9:48 a.m.

    If you're not willing to accept freedom from as a component of freedom of, you then have to be prepared to give freedom of to your worst enemy. Worse yet, to me. Let's just say that if I cannot escape religion, then my religion shall be a lot more fun than yours, with cheaper beer. I love a level playing field, bring it on.

  • WRK Riverton, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 9:42 a.m.

    @CHS 85

    So then to follow your way of thinking, you then have the right to put words in the mouths of the Supreme Court Justices (who are very careful with their words) and say that public meetings are the same as school meetings.

    Your law degree is from where?

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 9:32 a.m.

    So these two people felt "excluded" because they weren't Christian. Tell me how all of us at times don't feel excluded by government? I don't recall any part of the constitution that guarantees the right to be included. Just the right to have a voice and a vote, then if things don't go your way, you get a representative that probably excludes your feelings for his or her entire term.
    You think many of us didn't feel excluded when Obama and the Democrats pushed Obamacare through?

  • Lightbearer Brigham City, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 9:12 a.m.

    Re: "So many forget the part of the First Amendment that reads 'or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.'"

    And so many forget - or ignore - Jesus's instructions on how to pray: "Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret."

  • uncommonsense CENTERVILLE, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 8:54 a.m.

    So many forget the part of the First Amendment that reads "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;". In their zeal make sure religion and any religious thought is prohibited in anything related to government atheists trample the rights of American citizens.
    We, as Americans, are free to practice or not practice religion as we see fit. Locations are not specified nor are any specifics about how or what religion is performed. It doesn't say "except while performing government duties"

  • dalefarr South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 7, 2013 8:42 a.m.

    I think the Bible tells us to pray over everything but to do it in secret, in our closets etc.

  • CHS 85 Sandy, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 8:41 a.m.


    I'm guessing that you know more than the Supreme Court, who, in 1962 ruled on prayer in school. The case was Engel v. Vitale. The decision was 6-1 - even conservative justices ruled in favor of the plaintiff (Jewish families in New York). The same type of rulings were applied in Wallace vs. Jaffree (1985), Lee vs. Weisman (1992), and Santa Fe ISD vs. Doe (2000).

    Please look those rulings up, I've provided the cases and years. Like I said, maybe you know more than the Supreme Court justices.

    I don't see how public meetings are any different than schools.

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 8:15 a.m.

    As religious zealots continue to push their hegemony, true lovers of Democracy and freedom will continue to push back. One victory at a time, we will eventually help to fulfill the promise of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to remove the establishment of religion from government.

  • WRK Riverton, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 8:00 a.m.

    "The Bill of Rights

    THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.


    Amendment I

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    I don't see anywhere in there where it specifies any location that needs to be exempt from this freedom of (not freedom from - read it, I have supplied it for you) religion. Please explain your comments that there should be places exempt from this freedom and why the Constitution has not been amended to say that.

    Ya'll must be smarter than the founders, enlighten me please...

  • CHS 85 Sandy, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 7:56 a.m.


    As the pledge was originally written in 1892:

    "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

    The "Under God" was added in 1952 - sixty years after the pledge was written.

  • photografr7 Inwood, NY
    Aug. 7, 2013 7:52 a.m.

    Before you start calling the United States a "Christian nation," ask the 5.3 million American Jews, the 2.2 million American Buddhists, the 1.9 million American Muslims, and the 5 million American atheists, agnostics and those unaffiliated with any church what they think about that.

  • TimBehrend Auckland NZ, 00
    Aug. 7, 2013 7:24 a.m.

    Prayer doesn't need to be performed publicly, and government doesn't need to promote the idea that magic beings who stand outside the laws of nature make things happen on behalf of their favourites that wouldn't otherwise happen. And given that Robert Bellah just died, it's a shame that lawyer Michael Whitehead felt the need to take a gratuitous swipe at the man and his idea of 'civil religion'. It's humorous that he did so in a way that exposed his poor understanding of the term.

  • Bob A. Bohey Marlborough, MA
    Aug. 7, 2013 6:59 a.m.

    It would please me to see prayer prohibited at all government related business. People in this country already enjoy the immense freedom to worship what ever religion they choose on their own time. Prayer has no place in government business IMVHO.

  • Larceny Rural Hall, USA, NC
    Aug. 7, 2013 6:48 a.m.

    "One nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All"

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 6:20 a.m.

    Through prayer God can be asked for wisdom. heaven knows we need it given all the mismanagement and sub optimal management going on in our country.

    Since prayer was taken out of school education has gone downhill coincidence? I suspect not.

  • photografr7 Inwood, NY
    Aug. 7, 2013 5:26 a.m.

    Before filing suits about prayer at public meetings -- an attack on the separation of Church and State -- lawmakers should first present evidence that God exists. Since they can't (other than by quoting the Bible), lawmakers are basically saying they are in favor of religious prayer to a deity whose existence has not yet been established in a court of law. If that were to happen, anyone who believes in the tooth fairy or the cookie monster could set up public prayer ceremonies in court houses and government builds of all kinds throughout the country. And we wouldn't want that to happen, do we?