Pastor Wins Right to Say Jesus at Memorial Day Invocation

Pastor Scott Rainey was invited to deliver a Memorial Day invocation at Houston National Cemetery. Cemetery director Arleen Ocasio told him:

The tone of all messages must be inclusive of all beliefs, need to be general and its fundamental purpose should be specific to those we are honoring, and non-denominational in nature.”

Sounds like the typical way government tends to wrap itself in religion… but Rainey wasn’t having any of that. He filed a lawsuit to make sure he could say “Jesus Christ” in the prayer.

Rainey asked the federal court to grant a temporary restraining order to prevent Veterans Affairs from censoring the prayer. He claims the agency violated his civil protection from being told by the government how to express his religious beliefs.

The federal court sided with him, too.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes wrote in his order, granting the Rev. Scott Rainey’s motion for the court to intercede. “The right to free expression ranges from the dignity of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches to Charlie Sheen’s rants.”

Though no one’s inviting Sheen to deliver a Memorial Day invocation…

So we can expect Rainey to “Jesus” the hell out of this thing. I’m sure if he threw in a “Fuck you, atheists” at the end, no one would mind that, either.

Frankly, saying “Jesus Christ” doesn’t bother me all that much. He’s a Christian pastor. Why would we expect him to be inclusive when his religion dictates that Jews and Muslims and other non-Christians are going to hell?

Menachem Wecker, at the Houston Chronicle’s blog, doesn’t even think people of other faiths should care. Here’s his brilliant idea of what non-Christians should do during a Christian invocation:

People of other faiths who hear his talk ought to be mature enough to play Mad Libs with it.

If someone listening to the pastor’s reference to Jesus is a practicing Muslim, she or he ought to be able to substitute “Allah” in her or his head. Others, depending upon their faith, can meditate on the words Hashem, God, Vishnu, Bahá’u’lláh, Jehova or a variety of other names.

Got that, everyone? It ok when a pastor mentions “Jesus” in a government speech. You can just pretend he said “Allah.” (I guess that means I can pretend he was silent…?)

Wecker obviously doesn’t get it.

The problem here isn’t Jesus.

The problem is inviting religious figures to deliver an invocation in the first place.

There are plenty of people who know how to pay respect to our veterans without invoking their own mythology. I don’t know why a call wasn’t made to any of them. Hell, if this happened in my area, I’d do it for free.

Somehow, the powers-that-be decided that only religious leaders know how to honor our veterans. They’re wrong. And they would save themselves a whole lot of hassle if they simply stopped reaching out to people who get off on saying their god’s name everywhere they go. Believe it or not, some of our veterans aren’t Christians, and they deserve to be honored, too.

  • ACN

    The problem here isn’t Jesus.

    The problem is inviting religious figures to deliver an invocation in the first place.

    Yes, precisely. I don’t know what exactly they expected when they invited a christian minister to deliver an invocation. Did they expect him to not want to launch an all-out jesus assault?

  • Ron in Houston

    Seems like the simple solution is to get some other person who will actually live up to the specific requests made by the director.

    If the “Pastor” didn’t like the terms and conditions of the offer, he should have turned it down. That would seem to be the ethical thing to do.

  • Richard P.

    I guess this is why we fight against the stupidity. We can only work towards the day, people are to embarrassed to associate themselves with such nuttery.

  • Tom

    Mad Libs “Our Father” (Atheist Style)

    ___ ______ who art in ______, hallowed be ___ ____. ___ kingdom come. ___ will be done on Earth as it is in ______.
    Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (For _____ is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever.) Amen.

  • Thegoodman

    As a diehard Colts fan, there is but one true God, and I pray to him nightly.

    Peyton Manning who art in Indianapolis, hallowed be thy arm. Thine SuperBowl come. Thine championship won, on Earth as it is in Canton. Give us this touchdown, our weekly cheer, and forgive us our heckling, as we forgive those who heckle against us. And lead us not into loss, but deliver us from the playoff. For thine is the leader, the power and the glory of Indianapolis, forever and ever. Amen.

    I am recruiting for The Church of Peyton Manning. The tithe is just 6% and whatever your current religion is promising you, I’ll double it!

  • Kimpatsu

    If someone listening to the pastor’s reference to Jesus is a practicing Muslim, she or he ought to be able to substitute “Allah” in her or his head.

    How about they shout and holler it during the invocation instead? After all, free speech extends to everyone, right…?

  • Mike

    Though no one’s inviting Sheen to deliver a Memorial Day invocation…

    Maybe someone should… At the same place… And same time…

  • Robert Thille

    I think it’s funny that the blog writer realizes that all their gods are interchangeable. Of course they don’t seem to realize the why, which is because it’s all just bullshit going on in the thinker/listener’s head.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    I can see no reason why they can’t uninvite him. It’s their party, and they can ask who they like

  • The Watcher

    Rainey asked the federal court to grant a temporary restraining order to prevent Veterans Affairs from censoring the prayer. He claims the agency violated his civil protection from being told by the government how to express his religious beliefs.

    Once again, this has nothing to do with your free expression. Freedom of speech guarantees that the government cannot stop you from saying what you want. It does NOT guarantee that the government has to give you a forum in which to do it.

  • frank

    I’m not a hundred percent sure where I stand on the freedom of speech argument. Clearly the government is not obligated to give pastors a podium from which to spout whatever religious nonsense they want, but that doesn’t settle the issue. A public university doesn’t have to provide financial support to student organizations at all, but once it chooses to do so, it can’t deny that support to christian groups or to nontheist groups. Once the government provides a forum for speech, even if it does so by choice, it has a certain obligation not to discriminate based on the particular religious viewpoint a speaker chooses to express. So I suppose the argument here must be that for the government to uninvite the guy based on what the guy intents to say would be viewpoint discrimination.

    However this works out on a free speech level, I have to say I like it on a strategic level. I don’t feel any more or less included by a prayer that includes an explicit reference to Jesus than by one that doesn’t. But if it includes such a reference, that is likely to make the jews and the muslims and the hindus and such feel excluded, and that means more allies in the effort to do away with such prayers entirely.

  • Hugh

    Why does anyone still think religion has anything at all to do with morality? Shit like this makes it obvious that it is all about tribalism and triumphalism, nothing more.

  • Vanessa

    Yet another example of religion getting a free pass. Yes, this guy has the right to free expression, but if he is invited by the Cemetery, he should abide by their requests. That’s like if you hire a singer for your wedding and tell them what songs to sing, but they decide they don’t want to sing those songs and pick out their own. If you can’t do the job right, step down.

    • Michael M.

      No it’s not like hiring a singer…if you hire a Pastor he’s going to say Jesus, if you hire a Muslim he’s going to say Allah and if you hire a Buddhist he’s going to say Buddha!

  • frank

    Vanessa, that wedding comparison is just terrible. A wedding is a private ceremony for the two individuals involved, and they can set the content, religious or otherwise, according to their individual preferences. This was a public ceremony organized by the government and held at a government cemetery. (Why the government would need to own cemeteries is entirely beyond me, but that’s a whole separate issue.) This ceremony was supposed to be inclusive of a religiously diverse group of people. The problem therefor wasn’t the behavior of the pastor, it was the behavior of the organizers inviting him at all. Once he was invited, the pastor simply sought to do what he does, spread the word of Jesus Christ. He was doing his job. I would expect nothing less from him. The organizers are the ones who messed up here.

  • bob42

    This kind of irrational exclusivity is not unusual for Texas, the buckle of the bible belt. That’s right, were it not for Texas, the bible belt’s pants would fall down.

  • Nick Andrew

    Hopefully losing this lawsuit convinces them to not invite a religious guy next year. I hope the right to say Jesus Christ becomes a footbullet.

  • http://blog.chron.com/iconia Menachem Wecker

    Hi. Just saw this post now. It sounds like we definitely disagree on this, but I did mean in the post to suggest that you and others might substitute silence. I would hope also that there would be occasions where speakers delivering invocations of this sort would be silent in a manner that was consistent with their own beliefs, and the audience would substitute their own references… Either way, thanks for the response and for posting my piece.


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