Tokenism in Government Prayer Fails Again

In the long-simmering battle over the inclusion of (largely Christian) prayers at the beginning of government meetings, an assumption held sway that a written policy of pluralistic inclusion would provide a fig-leaf of legal protection against lawsuits from organizations like Americans United or the ACLU. At least that was the assertion of the conservative Christian advocacy organization Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). In their "model public invocations policy," the ADF noted how important it was to have an inclusive "neutral" policy on paper, if not in actual practice. "The bottom line is that any policy adopted and implemented [...] must ensure that the invocation opportunity is n … [Read more...]

“Religious Freedom” Laws, Inspirational Messages, and Religious Minorities

The idea of the United States as a pluralistic, secular, society where no single religious expression is enshrined has always gotten push-back, and experienced robust dissent over the years. To many, America is a "Christian" nation (sometimes a "Judeo-Christian" nation), and all others live here under their sufferance. The Rev. Dennis Terry's recent comments at a Rick Santorum presidential rally typify the more vituperative side of this particular sentiment. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2emBxDOY7g“I don’t care what the naysayers say. This nation was founded as a Christian nation. The god of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. There is only one God. There is only one Go … [Read more...]

A Quick Note on Prayer in Britain

This past Thursday the Washington Post reported on a story that's been causing no small amount of controversy in Britain, even sparking comment from the Prime Minister and the Queen Herself. It centers on the small English town of Bideford, and litigation over Christian prayers said as part of the official agenda during Town Council meetings. Here's how the Washington Post leads things off."Perhaps the locals should have anticipated sparks on a town council stocked not only with a practicing pagan, a staunch atheist and an agnostic former stripper but also two evangelical Christians and a Methodist church organist. But few could have predicted that one small town’s fight over the a … [Read more...]

Two Prayer Breakfasts, Two Visions of America

Today the political elite of the United States engaged in an annual tradition, the National Prayer Breakfast, attended by every president since Eisenhower, and held up by supporters as a peace-making, problem-solving moment of unity."The purpose of the National Prayer Breakfast, which will be held for the 60th time on Thursday, is to attempt to bridge political and even religious differences through what is called “the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth” in order that leaders consider a Higher Authority to Whom they are ultimately accountable and answerable. [...] One can debate whether the National Prayer Breakfast engages in a type of “civil religion,” but there is much good that emerges f … [Read more...]