Monday's January 9th County Commissioners Court meeting minutes had some comments from Judge Barkemeyer about a letter he received from some group on the prayer on the agenda. As a Christian I am pro prayer and prayed before each meeting for twelve years. Prayed a lot after the meetings too.
According to the letter from the organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State we can pray before court it just has to be done in the proper manner. They state, "… the practice is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."
Their letter continues in the next paragraph to state, "The U.S. Supreme Court has concluded that prayer in the opening of legislative sessions are constitutionally permissible if-but only if-they do not use language specific to one religion."
So we can pray we just can't say Jesus, Christ, Allah, Buddha, Lord or any other word that indicates one specific religion. The letter from this group cites many legal cases that have been decided in the courts to support their position.
They request that the court bring their prayer practice into constitutional compliance. They suggest that the prayer be replaced with a moment of silence, revise the prayer to allow only nonsectarian prayer or injecting religious diversity into the prayers so that prayer opportunity is not solely dominated by Christians.
They have their options and I have one that worked for Judge Blake, Judge Hashem and myself. While they refer to the constitution, and I am strong supporter of the constitution, I believe that there is an answer to their suggestions. Judge Hashem and myself as well always said the prayer before the opening of the court meeting.
Secondly, prayer was not listed as an agenda item. Listing prayer on the "official county business agenda" probably crosses the line of separation of religion and government. I would say it does as only county business should be listed on the agenda.
As a Christian I believe in prayer and can testify it has worked for me. On the other hand I am also a strong supporter of our constitution. It was written by men who followed those that came here for freedom of religion. My belief is that they wrote the Constitution to prevent the same thing from occurring in the Colonies that sent the first settlers to this continent.
Point here is that prayer probably does not belong on the agenda of any governmental meeting. However, if the prayer occurs before the meeting is called to order those that do not agree can step out of the room, or maybe go back to where they came from.