Tag Archives: prayer

First Amendment revisited

Let’s take a quick second look at the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in light of a decision the Supreme Court is likely to deliver about a former high school football coach who lost his job because he wanted to pray on the field after games.

Joe Kennedy, a former coach at Bremerton (Wash.) High School, has seen this case make all the way to the top of the judicial food chain.  His prayers drew criticism from those who said it violated the Constitution’s ban on state-sanctioned religion.

OK, back to the amendment. It sets four liberties for protection; it calls for a free press, freedom to assemble peaceably, to petition the government for gripes … and it has a religion clause.

It says, specifically, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ”

The framers set the religion matter first among those liberties. Why? Because their direct forebears had fled Europe’s religious mandate. They created a secular state in the New World. The other provisions came secondary to the religious one.

It does trouble me, therefore, that someone would complain about a coach praying on the field, which is his right as a U.S. citizen. The athletes who joined him in prayer? They weren’t forced to do it. The coach didn’t threaten them with losing their playing time if they decided against praying.

Common sense would seem to dictate that the young athletes were free to do what they felt like doing. Common sense also tells me the framers had it right when they lined out the prohibition against establishing a state religion as the first civil liberty to be protected.


Power of prayer works again?

I never have been one to dismiss out of hand the power of prayer.

I pray all the time. I did so, along with millions of other Americans, that Hurricane Laura would spare our friends living in the Golden Triangle region in the southeast corner of Texas.

Guess what happened? Laura stormed ashore in Cameron, La., a good bit east of the Golden Triangle. I don’t wish bad things to happen to anyone caught in the middle of nature’s fury, and I have continued to offer prayer to those who were hammered by the Category 4 force of the killer storm.

The National Weather Service issued a most unusual warning prior to Laura reaching shore. The NWS said the storm would produce an “unsurvivable” surge of Gulf of Mexico water. Unsurvivable? Yep, that’s what they said.

Then I heard this morning that the storm surge wasn’t as monstrous as the NWS projected. Did the prayer work for those good folks, too? Well, suffice to say that the answer is one that cannot withstand empirical examination. You either believe it did … or you don’t. I choose to believe in the power of prayer.

Hey, I’ll take all the credit I deserve for that one. So should the rest of us. To be sure, there have been at least two fatalities reported in the past few hours, so the storm has inflicted terrible misery on the families and friends of at least two individuals.

I also should point out that the NWS wasted no time in retiring the name “Laura” from its roster of future storm names. The storm was strong and fearsome enough to join the ranks of Katrina, Rita, Ike, Maria and Harvey — among others — in the pantheon of retired storm names we’ll never see again during hurricane season.

Speaking on behalf of our friends in the Golden Triangle, I want to extend a heartfelt, sincere and profoundly authentic sigh of relief that they averted the worst of what Mother Nature can dish out.

Keep it in church, not in City Hall

The mayor of Wylie, Texas, a town not far from where my wife and I live, clearly is a 15th-century man.

Eric Hogue is getting some serious criticism for declaring that women cannot lead prayer in public places because the Bible forbids it. What? Eh? Seriously?

Hogue cites passes from 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy — two books in the New Testament — that says women should remain silent in church. They can’t lead prayer while worshiping, the mayor interprets from Scripture.

Some folks have called on him to resign.

Hogue happens to pastor a church in Wylie, a town of about 51,000 residents in Collin County. He said his congregation interprets the New Testament passages literally.

Fine, Mr. Mayor/Preacher. Here’s a thought for you to ponder.

You are entitled to lead the church any way you see fit, presuming you continue to have the support of your congregants. However …

You took an oath to lead a secular government, led by a secular document — the U.S. Constitution — that expressly forbids the mixing of religion in public policy. If the mayor chooses to disallow women from leading, say, invocations to start city council meetings, I suppose that’s his call to make. He says he can’t go against his “conscience.”

The mayor just shouldn’t allow his religious beliefs to dictate public policy as he is empowered to enact according to the oath of office he took when he became the leader of a secular local government.

Praying for and criticizing POTUS … we can do both!

A goofy social media meme showed up overnight on my Facebook feed that demands we do something at the exclusion of another thing.

It says that “instead of criticizing” Donald Trump over his mishandling of the response to the coronavirus pandemic that we should “pray for him.”

Well … these are not mutually exclusive activities.

I am going to do both, actually. I will to continue to look critically at the way Trump has botched the federal government’s response to the pandemic. I also will pray that he finally gets his sh** together sufficiently to save lives.

I believe in the power of prayer, in that I also believe that God answers our prayers. The answer might not always be readily recognizable in the moment. Let’s face the fact that the Almighty doesn’t send emails to us telegraphing the answer.

However, God also gives us sufficient cognitive and intuitive ability to make up our own minds on whether we should criticize those among us wield power. Donald Trump wields power and, thus, we are entitled to demand that he do so with wisdom and discernment.

The president is our head of government and our head of state. He is the nation’s chief governmental executive. He once boasted that “I, alone” can fix what ails the nation. You know, it’s not unfair to hold him to that foolish, feckless and futile bit of braggadocio.

Therefore, I will do so … while at the same time praying that this goofball president finally gets it.

Amen to High Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it’s all right for governing bodies to begin their meetings with a prayer.

Good. I’m glad the court honored the First Amendment’s provision that disallows laws that establish a state religion but also prohibits any restriction on religion.

What’s a bit troubling, though, is that the court was so split on this one. It voted 5-4 — conservatives on the majority side and liberals on the other side — to allow “sectarian” prayer at town council, school board and county commissioners meetings.

I’ve never quite understood the strenuous objection to these prayers. They are, as Justice Anthony Kennedy noted in his majority opinion, meant to call attention to the solemn nature of an event, not to indoctrinate anyone.

The court heard a case out of Greece, N.Y., where a Jewish resident had complained that the city’s governing council opened its meetings with Christian prayers. He felt excluded from the blessings sought at the beginning of the meeting. So he took it to court and it ended up in front of the highest court in the land.

This would seem like a no-brainer decision.

Congress starts its sessions with daily prayers. They aren’t Christian prayers, or non-Christian prayers. They are all-encompassing. Indeed, Congress has members of many faiths, Christian and non-Christian alike. It even has non-believers in its ranks. Are the non-believing members of Congress going to protest? Surely they know better, given the constituencies they represent.

The court ruling doesn’t place any restriction what’s long been a tradition in many communities across the land. Amarillo’s City Council meetings begin with prayers. They’re usually given by Christian clerics and they often invoke Jesus’s name.

Still, no one should feel threatened by prayer. As Justice Kennedy wrote, “Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable. Legislative bodies do not engage in impermissible coercion merely by exposing constituents to prayer they would rather not hear and in which they need not participate.”