In recent days our county council had a councilman pray a Christian prayer that offended people. In response the council more than anything else has conformed to political correctness in essence condemning such a prayer. I am particularly troubled by the way public bodies such as city and county councils have chosen to ignore their responsibility to lead in defending the right of one of its citizens to speak freely and instead bow to the pressure to uphold and conform to an intolerant and ambiguous law. Controversial or not people have a right according to original intent of the First Amendment to our Constitution to speak in any manner they please, particularly with reference to religious beliefs. I would challenge anyone to pick up a copy of our Constitution and find a reference to a separation of church and state. That language was found in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist concerning their angst over the thought that the federal government might intrude upon their right to practice faith as they saw fit. Jefferson used the phrase to ensure them that the government had no such power, completely opposite of the way the federal courts have used it to justify the removal of religious opinions from the public square.
The federal courts in the former century seized upon one of two clauses concerning speech and religion in the First Amendment popularizing it with the separation of church and state terminology. The government is not to establish a religion – better known as the Establishment clause – however it is also not to prohibit the free exercise thereof or abridge the right to freedom of speech. True statesmanship is not keeping city and county councils out of court but fighting for what is known to be right and Constitutional. The freedom to speak as we please without recourse for our statements is the bedrock of a free society. As we lose this right city by city and county by county we lose our hard fought freedom.
Further tolerance is not hearing an opinion you disagree with and demanding that the person be shut up. Tolerance is hearing an opinion you disagree with, listening to it, weighing its merits, and then either maintaining or changing your opinion without consequence to the person with whom you disagree. Instead of taking the popular, federally approved approach towards generalizing all religious prayers and in the process forcing people to be quiet about their divergent beliefs. By trying to uphold the federal court’s confusing language about deities toward whom prayer can be directed is the federal government not establishing a federal religion? Furthermore is there not a more tolerant road? What if, to serve all the people in locale, a council were to select a rotating representative from every faith or non-faith group in the community to offer an invocation and make it policy that people should tolerate what is said? Does this not harmonize better with the original intent of our Constitution?
I personally take offense to the harmful slander of Jesus Christ’s name every time someone offers a watered down prayer and then claim that it represents my faith. By offering a prayer that does not offend any person in a city or county, and to claim that such a prayer represents all faiths, a lowest common denominator faith is established naturally squelching freedom of speech! The only prayer that represents my Christian faith is one that calls people to repent and believe in Jesus name. I am fine with a council offering any prayers that it wishes, but please do not claim that they represent my faith unless they meet the criteria above. We must be free to speak, tolerant of opposing beliefs that our own might be heard with the same tolerance, and passionate about our own convictions especially when there are so many who need to hear the message of Jesus Christ a friend and Savior for sinners!