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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Civil Government Mingled With Prayer

by Kyle:

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down their ruling in Greece v Galloway, a case dealing with a city council opening its legislative meetings with prayer. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the town of Greece, NY did not violate the First Amendment’s prohibition of an establishment of religion when it allowed residents to give an invocation at the start of its monthly meetings.

You’re probably thinking, “But wait, haven’t towns, states, and even Congress itself been opening meetings with prayer since like that Washington guy?”

The answer is yes, but just because we’ve been doing something for a long time, doesn’t mean that we should keep doing it.

Unfortunately Justice Kennedy doesn’t agree with me, which is fine, because you know he’s like a ton smarter than I am. In his opinion for the majority Kennedy wrote:
From the earliest days of the Nation, these invocations have been addressed to assemblies comprising many different creeds.

These ceremonial prayers strive for the idea that people of many faiths may be united in a community of tolerance and devotion.

Our tradition assumes that adult citizens firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith.
Well that’s just fine and dandy there, Mr. Justice, and I completely agree that as adult citizens we can and should show a little tolerance towards a person of a different faith, or no faith at all. After all, it’s quite easy for a good (looking) Mormon man such as myself to be able to listen to the prayer of a Catholic, Baptist, or Seventh-day Adventist, and completely appreciate their prayer.

But what happens when it's not a Catholic, Baptist, or Seventh-day Adventist prayer? What happens when it's a Hindu, Muslim, or Jedi prayer? (Yes, Jedi is a religion folks, however, I’m unclear if they pray—ok I just Googled it and I’m still a little unclear if they do or don’t.) I mean really, how often do you think a non Judeo-Christian prayer is offered in these meetings? I’m willing to bet all the money in my pockets, against all the money in your pockets that it is rare.

The LDS Church was more than happy with the court’s ruling, obvi.
We applaud the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the long standing practice of prayer within government meetings. We believe the ruling upholds the rich American tradition of religious participation in the public square.
I was sitting in a Gospel Essentials class this past Sunday. I like the GE class. Everything is basic, and nobody goes off on extreme pontificating tangents like in other Sunday school classes. I don’t even recall what the exact principle that was being taught, but we were in the 134 section of the Doctrine and Covenants. We skipped around some verses and then in my wandering mind I decided to read the verses that were between the ones read aloud in class. And let me tell you, I found an interesting one.

If you didn’t know, section 134 is all about “A declaration of belief regarding governments and laws in general, adopted by unanimous vote at a general assembly of the Church held at Kirtland, Ohio, August 17, 1835.”

Verse 9 states:
We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.
Well at least the Church’s press release affirms this—wait what? We do not believe it is just to mingle religious influence with civil government? Since when? Who wrote this?

Personally, I’d like for us to follow this scripture a little more literally. And by literally what I mean is I’d like us to actually believe that it is not just to mingle religious influence with civil government.

The Supreme Court has ruled that prayer in the public space is a-okay. Fine. That’s the ruling and that’s how we set up our laws and government. But we probably should be willing to allow prayers from EVERY religion or belief system under the sun instead of just allowing for Christian prayer.

Personally, I'd like to keep prayer where it belongs. In our private spaces.

Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you support prayer in the public space or would you rather it be out? If there was a non Judeo-Christian invocation that you’d like to hear in a public meeting, what would it be? As for me, I would want the Jedi religion to start coming up with some sort of “prayer” because that would just be awesome.

Last note. I realize that I am leaving out the atheist perspective on this situation and for that I am sorry, as I think it is very valuable in this discussion. I only did so to keep this just below the line where a post is too long and someone leaves MMM in search of cat photos. If you are an atheist, please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Kyle works in Democratic politics, yet somehow his bishop still lets him participate in church activities. He hails from Washington DC, but is embarking on a year of living in Salt Lake City and being a stay-at-home dad, while his amazing wife brings home the bacon. Actual bacon. No, seriously, she works across the street from a grocery store. It's delicious. Kyle's Mormon street cred comes from the fact that he is the youngest of seven children and is only five years older than his niece. Twitter: @KJinSLC.

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