Separation of church and state? A new report documenting wasteful spending shows congress spends $66,000 an hour for prayers.
According to the report, Congress has spent more than $10 million on prayers since 2000. Adding insult to injury, when expenses are accounted for, the U.S. House and Senate is spending $800,000 a year on opening prayers.
According to the Congressional Research Service, in 2011 the House Chaplain earned $172,500 and the Senate Chaplain earned$155,500.
… the House and Senate Chaplains earn salaries equivalent to level IV of the Executive Schedule. Other employees paid at this level include the general counsels of the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force; the chief financial officers of NASA and the EPA; the Chief Information Officers of almost every major federal department and agency; and the Army’s Director of Civil Defense.
However, unlike other level IV government officials, the positions of House Chaplain and Senate Chaplain are largely ceremonial, prayers are brief, and only offered on the days the House and Senate are in session, which is usually 100-150 days a year.
Some will defend the wasteful spending by arguing that the House Chaplain and the Senate Chaplain do more than simply offer prayers, claiming that they may offer “spiritual counseling” in addition to the ceremonial prayers. However, as Seidel notes:
The chaplain has only one duty according to House rules: to “offer a prayer at the commencement of each day’s sitting of the House.” The same goes for the Senate. That’s it. They may do more, but their only job is to kick off the morning with an invocation.
The report also notes that more than 96% of prayers in the House were Christian prayers. This fact is an insult to the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
If 96% of the prayers offered by the House and Senate chaplains are Christian prayers, one must wonder, is not Congress establishing Christianity as the de facto national religion, and in so doing, violating the constitution they swore to uphold?
Perhaps more annoying than the government waste, and the exorbitant salaries for glorified snake oil salesmen, is the blatant disregard and disrespect for the separation of church and state enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and the secular values upon which this nation was founded.
Bottom line: Congress should not be wasting taxpayer’s money on meaningless prayers.
(H/T Andrew Seidel)