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To Pray Or Not To Pray

By The Reverend Published: October 17, 2007

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Today, Phil Trexler writes in the Beacon about prayer and the Akron City Council.

Find the article here.

Some observations.

From Trexler's article, Marco Sommerville, Council President, says this....

''The issue isn't prayer. Prayer is OK, but you can't say the same kind of Christian prayer every time,'' he said. ''But I think if you stop prayer, period, it sends the wrong message out, and we don't want to do that. At the same time, we don't want to get sued.''

What "wrong message" would not praying before Council meetings "send out"? Seriously. Would not praying before a meeting mean nothing good could be accomplished in that meeting? Would it mean that the City Council decisions would all be, like, sinful and wrong? Or is Sommerville referring to the hollow symbolism that accompanies prayers. People need their symbolism. Is that what Sommerville means?

We already know from our life's experiences that prayer has no objective empirical, cause and effect, thing going on. Or at least we should know it. Praying or not praying, especially before a secular government meeting, doesn't cause "god" to do anything differently, just as praying or not praying in our personal lives doesn't cause "god" to do anything differently.

So why an opening prayer at the Akron City Council meetings at all? Government can't, Constitutionally, promote religion.....that's why the issue is being challenged in Akron in the first place.

It's the year that the prayer practice started in Akron that leads to an answer.

1952. What was the great scare of that time? Godless Communists. America's kneejerk reaction to communism, included juvenile symbols that, indeed, "proved" to many that America was not godless, not like those Ruskies.

One of those symbols was public prayer. The insertion of "one nation, under God" into the pledge. 'In God We Trust' on currency. These symbols have no genuine meaning other than the unspoken meaning to not question what the symbol allegedly stands for.

Symbolism, like government sponsored prayer, has a dissent discouraging given in it. The symbols, themselves, become sacrosanct. Those who would speak out to maintain Constitutional separation of church and state are put in an awkward position, purposely, by these otherwise benign symbols. Those who would challenge these symbols are often tagged as anti-God, or anti-American or both. Symbolism is often clung to for it's divisiveness, alone.

If it's the symbolism the Akron City Council
must exhibit to pacify it's constituency.... then we are simply dealing with immature folks. The ACLU comes to communities to remind people that the Constitution is still in effect, no matter what has slipped in as tradition over the decades.

The Beacon piece includes a response to Akron dropping it's opening prayer by Chris Long of the Ohio Christian Alliance. Predictably, Long thinks Akron acted hastily.

''Those who would want to silence the expression of any kind of religion or expression of religion in the country, that's certainly a bigotry that needs to be addressed,'' Long said

I know the Akron City Council has power and all....but I'm not sure they have the power to, "..silence the expression of any kind of religion or expression of religion in the country...". Wouldn't that involve, like, closing churches and mosques and burning spiritual books, etc.?

Religion is free and protected in America. At the same time, Americans are guaranteed that government cannot "establish" religion of ANY kind. Prayer can only be comprehended as religious. The maturation of a society which can recognize both of these truths is what is happening with the slow elimination of public prayers at government sponsored events.

While our country was being threatened by godless communism, government sponsored symbolic expressions of religion, unConstitutionally, were put in place. The history of the time makes it understandable but not defendable. Today those once understandable symbolic expressions of religion are, one by one, being terminated, and rightly so.

Eliminating opening prayer from City Council meetings doesn't mean Akron, or our country, is about to fall into Satan's pit of hell. What it means is we are respecting the basis upon which our nation was founded. What it means is that, far from being a sign of "bigotry", as the wingnut Long states, we are becoming more mature as a secularly governed society, more faithful to the brilliance of our country's Founders.

Spoken prayer belongs at home, in houses of worship, in religious schools.....where it doesn't belong, as long as the Constitution stands, is in government activities.

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