EDITORIAL: Goverment meetings aren't prayer meetings

2013-08-07T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Goverment meetings aren't prayer meetings nwitimes.com
August 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow prayer as an official part of public meetings. But these are government meetings, not prayer meetings.

Zoeller eagerly joined 22 other state attorneys general in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to explicitly permit official prayers at public meetings. In fact, Zoeller was co-lead author of that amicus (friend of the court) brief.

Others have joined the fray, or bray, including U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind. Both joined colleagues in putting their names on amicus briefs.

They object to a May 2012 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the Town of Greece v. Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, in which the court said starting a government meeting with a Christian prayer is unconstitutional.

We agree with the court.

This is no slam against Christianity. Any single sectarian prayer would be unconstitutional.

The First Amendment forbids the establishment of a state religion, and sanctioned prayers effectively sanction one religion over others.

Zoeller argues the person giving the prayer is doing so on his or her own behalf, not in an official capacity.

"Citizens offer prayers in service to an elected assembly, and in so doing may receive accommodation of their individual beliefs without implicating the Establishment Clause," Zoeller said.

If that's the case, why is someone invited to offer the prayer instead of inviting all who want to pray to do so on their own? That invitation for a single person or group to pray makes it an official prayer.

Anyone who wishes to pray before or during (if done quietly) a government meeting should do so on their own. That doesn't violate anyone's rights.

Two months ago, the Hammond City Council stopped beginning its meetings with prayers after Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. suggested the practice is likely unconstitutional. Hammond officials were right to do so.

That prohibits official prayer, but not private prayers. Anyone who wants to pray on his own is free to pray to whatever deity that person chooses.

In fact, please do, because some of these public officials need all the prayers they can get — just not official government prayers.

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