Congressman Wants Government to Express Support for Prayer at School Board Meetings

Prayer is allowed at school board meetings just as it’s allowed in school. As long as the prayers are private, not disruptive, and done before the formal meeting, no one’s going to stop Christians from talking to their God.

But Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI) wants the government to show its support to Christian prayers that take place during school board meetings. He just proposed House Resolution 250 (PDF) and his argument is essentially that Congress has invocations, so school boards should get to have them, too:

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

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 acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of the Nation;

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.

The bill already has 43 co-sponsors.

The American Humanist Association believes this resolution would “encourage more school districts to pray at school board meetings and alienate nonreligious students, teachers, parents, and school administrators from their own communities” and is encouraging everyone to contact their representatives to express disapproval.

The bill wouldn’t change any existing laws but Congress has no business supporting faith over no faith or one religion over another. “Christianity” isn’t mentioned anywhere in the resolution but we all know Walberg isn’t talking about Islam when he encourages prayer.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Dale Snyder

    I’m so glad that they’re “all about creating jobs.”

    • fsm

      /sarcasm – well of course, EVERYONE knows that only the One True God can create jobs and only by praying to Him will he grant us the gift of new employment. – /sarcasm off

      • John

        You say that sarcastically, but a lot of people actually believe that it’s true.

      • Space Cadet

        Save us, Supply Side Jesus!

  • baal

    ” Congress has invocations, so school boards should get to have them, to”
    Creeping sharia christianity.

    • allein

      It will never occur to them that those of us who think school boards and town council meetings shouldn’t have prayers also think that Congress shouldn’t have prayers, either, will it?

      • Feminerd


  • Edmond

    “…and not freedom from religion…”
    Do these people even hear themselves? “You’re gonna get a faceful of my religion, and you’re gonna like it!”

    • Richard Tingley

      Fredom of religion has to include freedom from religion. You have to wonder if these people have ever heard of the mathematical concept of zero.

      • Hat Stealer

        Even if atheists didn’t exist, freedom of religion would still have to mean freedom from religion, so that different people’s religious beliefs don’t clash. A Hindu or Jew wouldn’t want Catholic dogma forced upon them, i.e. they want freedom from religion (in this case Catholicism) Freedom of religion is freedom from religion. They’re the same freaking thing.

      • Willy Occam

        And I’ll bet a lot of these same ass-clowns trying to make a distinction between “of” and “from” are the ones who argue that atheism is a religion (when that argument suits them).

  • John

    I never understood the whole freedom of vs freedom from thing. So you can have any religion at all, as long as it’s a religion? So if I call myself a follower of the Invisible Pink Unicorn rather than an atheist then I’m suddenly entitled to full rights? Or do only “real” religions get a pass? In that case, who gets to decide which ones are real?

    • Jayn

      Yeah, I’ve never really gotten it either, since to really have the first you have to have the second. It’s hard to freely choose when the authorities in your life are all pushing one particular religion (and in the US, that’s usually Christianity). I think the idea is that you’re free to be Buddist or whatever, but that doesn’t mean that schools can’t still have Christian prayers. Which is just messed up, both because it screws with the ‘freedom of’ and because someone of one religious background shouldn’t have to listen to (or worse, participate in) prayers that don’t match that background in a place like a public school.

      It’s a stupid argument used to try and justify having religion incorporated into public institutions, and they’re so used to being surrounded by people of a similar faith that they don’t realise the full import of such things for people who aren’t Christian.

    • jdm8

      It’s a conservative talking point. Political talking points generally don’t make sense, they’re made have an emotional impact, not a logical one.

    • curtcameron

      I think the seed of an idea in their wittle heads is that a person has freedom of religion, but that doesn’t mean that someone has a right to never hear religious views expressed.

      It’s as if they think we’re offended at just having to see that other people are religious, and that’s what we’re complaining about. They can’t grasp the idea that the establishment clause of the First Amendment means that it’s the government that is prohibited from having a religious viewpoint.

  • A3Kr0n

    Why the hell do these people keep getting re-elected? .

    • baal

      Gerrymandering, fear based reasoning, appeals to racism, voter suppression and did I mention gerrymandering?

      • Feminerd

        Oh yes the gerrymandering. I live in Texas- it’s not the worst, but it’s up there for very, very bad. When I was in college, the State Speaker of the House came and gave a talk; I attended. He talked about redoing the map; Texas, for all it’s a “red” state, is actually split about 60/40 in voters. Our delegation to the US House of Representatives before redistricting in 2000? About 70/30; not great, but not bad. Afterwards, it was ~85/15 R/D. When I asked him how that could possibly represent the will of the voters, he weaseled out of the question like a champ.

  • jdm8

    Freedom from establishment is freedom from establishment. Official prayer encroaches on establishment.

    Congress always gets its special exceptions that it shouldn’t, that Congress does it doesn’t mean that every other body should.

    • allein

      Do as I say, not as I do?

      • jdm8

        That does seem to be the attitude that Congress has. There are lists available that show what laws they exclude themselves from, and that’s easy for them to do when they write the laws.

  • Oranje

    I was in a meeting yesterday, at a major university, where someone suggested we need to bring back religion classes. Because many of our students were raised without religion and therefore they have no values. It’s stunning when this happens in person.

    I expect it from the elected twits like this guy, but when it’s in person, with someone who is being sincere, you just have to wonder.

  • Matt Potter

    My religion tells me it’s immoral and a sin to hear others pray!! Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

  • Bill Santagata

    It’s not quite a given that prayer is prohibited at school board meetings. It is in the states served by the 3rd Circuit thanks to an appellate decision there, which ruled that the standard in Lee v. Weisman governs rather than Marsh v. Chambers. While I would prefer that no prayer be given, I have to disagree with the 3rd Circuit. I would say as a government body the Marsh standard should prevail in this context as it does throughout the rest of the country.


    This is yet another example why I have long felt that it is always the people who make the most noise about their ‘conservatism’ who are the most willing to play fast and loose with the constitution. As for the usefulness of prayer; how many prayers, do you suppose, were offered up during the holocaust?