If You Are in Favor of Secular Government, Consider Offering an Invocation at a Town Hall Meeting

IntroductionThere are many days that will live in infamy (FDR) alongside December 7, 1941. Just two obvious examples are November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001. Most people could identify several days in history for inclusion in the infamy files if asked by pollsters for nominations, depending upon their politics, loyalties and passions. If asked, I would list May 5, 2014 as a date certain to live in infamy.That’s the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway (case # 12-696, 2014 WL 1757828) that it is constitutional for city and county governments to host prayers at official meetings. The decision was 5 in favor, four against – yet another narrow decision by the ultra-conservative panel of avid Roman Catholic justices.Someday, a secular Supreme Court will override this dreadful decision. Our Constitution is godless. It is not hostile or friendly to religion – it is simply neutral. Our Founders met centuries ago at a constitutional convention that included no prayers. A separation was established in the Constitution between religions and governments at all levels. This was deliberate – the Founders knew from their experience in Europe that religious matters, such as religions were divisive, that disparate sectors of the population did not want to be governed by or included in the religious dogmas and rituals at odds with their own religious beliefs, or absence of such beliefs. Freedom from is as important as freedom of religion – and these two freedoms require governments that neutral in matters of a religious nature. Yet today, politicians and many influential allies enthused with church-based sensibilities have introduced, at every level of government, elements of the predominant form of religiosity, namely, Christianity.No Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Pastafarian (Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) or non-believer should or does have any business or reason for concern about prayer or other religious devotions – conducted in churches and other places where congregants voluntarily assemble for such purposes. The rest of the population who do not share their beliefs and interests are in no way affected – peace and harmony can reign unfettered. However, when the devout insist on including outsiders in their prayers and/or other rituals, such as with invocations at government meetings, problems arise. Some citizens who happen to believe that nothing fails like prayer are likely to make their views about such practices known to the devout – and then peace and harmony are disturbed.My own views are the same as Robert Green Ingersoll’s, who in one speech said that Improved Man will not endeavor, by prayers and supplication, by fastings and genuflections, to change the mind of the Infinite, or to alter the course of nature; neither will he employ others to do these things in his place. In another speech, he said, the hands that help are better than lips that pray and in another, that all prayers die in the air that they uselessly agitate.Consider this partial list of areas in which violations of separation of government and religious practices or influences are rampant:
Prayer at Public Meetings and Religion in Public Schools and Universities (e.g., creationism, school prayer, bibles/religious texts in curricula/student religious clubs and religious distributions, music, pledge of allegiance, displays, events and evangelism during the school day and use of facilities by church groups).
Faith-Based Programs and Other Government Subsidies of Religious Institutions and Service Providers (other than schools).
Tax Exemptions for Churches and Clergy.
School Vouchers & Government Subsidies of Religious Schools.
Official Prayer, Religious Displays and Ceremonial Religion (prayer at government events and legislative meetings, religious displays on public property, religious mottoes, pledges and resolutions.
Government Sanctioned Discrimination, Religious Exemptions (including in the military, prisons, housing, healthcare facilities, etc).
Church Involvement in Candidate Elections/Lobbying and Ballot Initiatives and U.S. – Vatican Diplomatic Relations).
Marriage, Reproductive Justice & Other Privacy Issues.
A Course of ActionThese violations will not cease owing to the good will of Christian and other religious elements. Secular Americans will have to make known their desires for adherence to separation of religion and government at every level and in social and other interactions. Doing so need not be confrontational; constructive requests for governmental neutrality should be sufficient to slow and hopefully reverse a steady drift toward theocracy. Secularists have many allies in the religious communities who share their desire to keep religion and government apart.This requires, as a first step, that more Americans be aware of the nature, rationale and history of separation of church and state. Local officials should be reminded that they may not legally use their authority, public funds or government property to promote religion, despite the fact that a majority presently approves of religious intrusions. (Provided, of course, that the intrusions come from their own one true religion.) School administrators and teachers also need help in some jurisdictions in recognizing that public schools are not an appropriate forum for promoting religious pedagogy but are instead there to communicate and instruct the young about American democracy.Invocations Are UsThe Greece/Galloway decision has energized many secularists to actively resist further Christian incursions into public life – and to do more about those already in place. To foster specific protest about government prayer, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has designed a contest, the purpose of which is to show that government prayers are unnecessary, ineffective, embarrassing, exclusionary, divisive or just plain silly. The thinking is that if more citizens protest prayers, the likelihood increases that they will stop sooner rather than later.Anyone interested in the contest need only sign up or otherwise gain a chance to appear at a council meeting or other government function and deliver a secular, instructive invocation. The next step is to send a video of the event to FFRF. There will be a prize given once each year. The goal of the contest is to educate everyone about why we have, or should protect what we are entitled to have, namely, separation of church and state. The grand prize will be a Nothing Fails Like Prayer award for the best of the secular invocations.The annual winner or winners will be given a commemorative plaque along with a check for $500. In addition, the winner will be invited, all expenses paid, to deliver the winning invocation at FFRF’s annual convention. The slogan for the contest is Be a Paine in the Government’s Mass – a Thomas Paine. I like that very much.The annual contest will be terminated when the Greece decision is overturned. For further details about and tips for winning, contact FFRF at [email protected] or write to FFRF at Nothing Fails Like Prayer Contest, c/o FFRF, PO Box 750, Madison WI 53701.Good luck. Giving an invocation is a REAL wellness act of freedom-seeking as well as the patriotic thing to do. If you are planning such a thing, I thank you in advance for your service.

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