U.S. House Member Introduces Resolution to Allow Prayer During School Board Meetings

Rep. Timothy Walberg (R-MI) has introduced a resolution in the U.S. House that would allow prayer at school board meetings across the country. Right now, he has 38 co-sponsors, all of whom are Republicans.

Rep. Tim Walberg

House Resolution 662 states (emphases mine):

Expressing support for prayer at school board meetings.

Whereas the freedom to practice religion and to express religious thought is a fundamental and unalienable right guaranteed under the United States Constitution;

Whereas the United States was founded on the principle of freedom of religion and not freedom from religion;

Whereas the framers intended that the First Amendment to the Constitution would prohibit the Federal Government from enacting any law that favors one religious denomination over another, and protect not prohibit the mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialogue;

Whereas in 1983 the Supreme Court of the United States held in Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, that the practice of opening sessions of legislative bodies and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is so deeply embedded in the history and tradition of the United States that it has become part of the fabric of society, and invoking divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws is not a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, but rather is simply a tolerable acknowledgement of beliefs widely held among the people of the Nation;

Whereas voluntary prayer in legislative and other deliberative bodies should not be limited to prayer in the United States Senate and House of Representatives and State legislatures;

Whereas school boards are deliberative public bodies of adults, akin to a legislature, in that they are predominantly elected by the people, act in the public interest, and hold sessions that are open to the public for voluntary attendance;

Whereas the nature of school boards as deliberative public bodies, akin to a legislature, is further established by the fact that they enact policies and regulations that are given the force of law in managing and supervising the schools within their realm of governance, similar to statutes and ordinances enacted by Federal, State, and other local deliberative public bodies to regulate the areas within their purview;

Whereas the nature of school boards as deliberative public bodies, akin to a legislature, is not altered by the presence of students or any other group of observers, just as the nature of the United States Senate and House of Representatives and State legislatures as deliberative public bodies is not altered although individuals regularly attend such legislative sessions for a variety of purposes;

Whereas the nature of school boards as deliberative public bodies, akin to a legislature, is not altered by the location at which they hold their sessions, just as the nature of the United States Senate and House of Representatives and State legislatures as deliberative public bodies is not derived from the location at which those bodies host their sessions;

Whereas the nature of school boards as deliberative public bodies, akin to a legislature, is not altered by the subject matter of the deliberation, just as the nature of the United States Senate and House of Representatives and State legislatures as deliberative public bodies is not altered when such bodies spend a substantial amount of time legislating on a specific subject matter; and

Whereas voluntary prayer by a deliberative public body should be protected under law and encouraged in society because voluntary prayer has become a part of the fabric of this society, voluntary prayer acknowledges beliefs widely held among the people of the Nation, and the Supreme Court of the United States has held that it is not a violation of the Establishment Clause for a public body to invoke divine guidance: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives–

(1) recognizes that school boards are deliberative public bodies, and should be free to engage in prayer at the beginning of meetings;

(2) recognizes that school boards are deliberative public bodies, and should be free to engage in prayer at the beginning of meetings consistent with the prayer practice upheld in Marsh v. Chambers;

(3) recognizes that prayer before school board meetings is a protected act in accordance with the fundamental principles upon which the Nation was founded; and

(4) expresses support for the voluntary practice of prayer at the beginning of meetings of legislative bodies and other deliberative public bodies, including school board meetings.

Keep in mind these are prayers that would take place during the meetings, not beforehand. This is a blatant attempt to stick prayer in a place where it doesn’t belong: A government body.

Walberg told OneNewsNow:

“This is not an issue of school prayer, it’s an issue of a fact that a school board — like the legislature or Congress or the Supreme Court; a deliberative body making decisions that have the force of law — should be, if they desire — not mandated, but if they desire, and the community supports it — that they should be able to open in prayer,” the Republican lawmaker contends.

In other words, if a bunch of Christians are on a school board and they want to publicly pray to Jesus before deciding curricular issues, why should anyone else stop them? It’s not like you can pray in church, or at home, or in your office before the school board meeting, or quietly in your mind anymore…

The resolution was introduced a few weeks ago but it has not yet passed.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    He should be put in jail. He swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and he has betrayed that oath. That strikes me as a criminal offense.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=628665833 Bill Santagata

      Violating the Constitution is a *civil* not a criminal offense. Whether or not school boards can begin their meetings with *non-sectarian prayer* is a bit up in the air. We have one appellate court ruling (Doe v. Indian River School District) from the 3rd Circuit holding it unconstitutional, despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in Marsh v. Chambers that deliberative bodies can open with non-sectarian prayer, although the Supreme Court denied to hear the appeal of the Indian River School District Case.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        Violating his oath is what I see as criminal, not violating the Constitution (whatever that means). Holders of public office can be impeached for doing just that… and impeachment is a criminal proceeding.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=628665833 Bill Santagata

          Impeachment is neither a criminal nor civil proceeding as the question at stake is only whether or not the accused will be removed from office. An acquittal or conviction in an impeachment hearing does not preclude future criminal or civil prosecution.

      • Stev84

         The legal construct of “non-sectarian prayer” is just as much nonsense as “ceremonial deism”. Put in by religious judges to defend the indefensible. Just because you omit other nonsense phrases like “In Jesus’s name we pray” doesn’t make a prayer non-Christian.

  • The Captain

    Ahh the good old “freedom of religion and not freedom from religion”, the mantra of someone who’s about to force you to pray to their god.

    • jdm8

      That is the part that bothers me the most.  You can’t have freedom of religion without  freedom from government sponsored religious activity.

  • RevWubby

    So this is how 1938 Germany felt?

    • sunburned

       ”The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christanity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination.”  –from item #24 of the 25-point NSDAP Program.

      • Georgina

         But only in America is the right wing so tied to religion.
        In Europe both the catholic church and the Mullahs is very ‘socialist’, as in NSDAP.

        • sunburned

           Except the NSDAP wasn’t really socialist judging by their actions.  Fascists perhaps?

  • Roy Gamsgrø

    Just more proof that Christians don’t know their own religion…

    “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to
    pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people
    can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever
    you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in
    secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” – Matthew 6:5-6

    Has anyone asked Christians why they so blatantly ignore the words of Jesus?

    • Baby_Raptor

      I pointed that verse out back when I was a Christian, and a bunch of the people I went to church with were trying to get me to join their little group that prayed in the front office everyday.

      They said that the “witness” they were being outweighed the sin of being seen in public praying. 

      • sunburned

        Man, I would love a set of those magic scales:)

  • http://sethpeck.net Seth Peck

    WHERE ARE THE JOBS?

  • Thegoodman

    Terrific use of time. Well done Republicans, keeping your eyes on the big issues that plague our nation.

  • JamesM

    What a dick

  • Carla_golightly

    Which God are they going to pray too?

  • http://twitter.com/SteveInMI Steve In MI

    My parents live in Tim Wahlberg’s district, and I’ve met the nutter myself. A quick look at his biography tells the tale: this is not a normal Congresscritter. He is a professional religious conservative, trained up directly by the Moody Bible Institute.  He won his seat due less to the conservatism of his rural Michigan district and due more to some wonkiness in some MI-07 elections.

    Congressman Wahlberg’s approach to the “sanctity of life” includes the idea (which he’s stated publicly) that America “SHOULD have a war every ten years or so”… to make sure the country doesn’t lose sight of the importance of [over-]funding its military. 

    Dude is a certifiable whack job. Take his antics for what they’re worth: mostly, they’re worth the national attention (and money) he gets from the radical right for introducing Constitution-busting religious privilege legislation.

  • Lucilius

    Does any sensible legislator have the courage to start a rival resolution to reprimand Walberg for wasting Congress’ time and taxpayers’ money on a patently illegal act?

    • usclat

      Or at least to kick the right Congressman in the nuts. Preferably with a steel-toed boot ust so that he wouldn’t soon forget the message the punt meant to convey: keep your god damn religion out of our public institutions! 

  • Mark W.

    Write a letter to the douche bag thanking him for finally recognizing the importance of praying before each school board meeting and that as soon as this goes through you will be getting prayers to Thor or the FSM or Satan  etc. instituted before each board meeting in his district.  Then sit back and watch the old codger choke on his own spit, maybe he’ll have a heart attack.

    • usclat

      We can only hope so.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    What is this obsession with having prayers before meetings? I’ve never understood the purpose.   But Mark W. has the right idea.  As soon as people of other “faiths” start demanding their right to pray, the Christians suddenly get their panties in a twist and decide this public prayer thing isn’t all that important. 

  • HughInAz

    I’m sick of this shit. Why won’t those neanderthals realize that when they are on the government clock, they do not have “freedom of religion” and “freedom of expression” – they are supposed to be working! And serving all their constituents – even the ones who are less jesusy or even non-jesusy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnAKieffer John Kieffer

    I’m facing a trial and a potential one year in prison for charges stemming from not participating in one of those prayers BEFORE a school board meeting was even called to order.  More info …

    http://www.free2think.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=1414

  • Michael Parker

    Get a bunch of guys to start wailing at a wall…another bunch to start dancing and shaking snake rattles and drums, another bunch can pull out carpets and start bowing to mecca…some satanists can come and kill  cat (or something…I know I’m crossing into the absurd here)…we can make it a wild party!!!  All protected by the law right?  is there a time limit on these ceremonies?

  • Corey

    CAN a group of muslims or witches or hindus have the same “right”?  i doubt it. hell, ive read of one religion that supports men on boy sex…oh wait…that would be catholic and i guess exceptable. (actually i have read of a non-christian religion that is based on gods and men on boy sex)


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