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Uncensored prayer is legally sound and right for Lodi

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Posted: Monday, September 21, 2009 10:00 pm

For more than 220 years Americans have enjoyed the freedom to pray for their government representatives through invocations before local, state and federal legislative bodies.

The same Founding Fathers who authored the Bill of Rights - including the First Amendment - also authorized prayer invocations before Congress by chaplains who prayed in Jesus' name. To this day, the inauguration of the President and opening session of Congress start with invocations that reference not only Jesus, but other faiths as well. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld legislative prayer invocations and no federal court has ever banned them.

Armed with a wrong-headed California state court opinion, anti-prayer advocates are threatening to sue the Lodi City Council because some invocations at council meetings have mentioned Jesus. Why are they threatening Lodi instead of Congress or the White House? Perhaps they believe that small municipalities with budget concerns can be "bullied" into removing or limiting invocations to avoid litigation.

The problem started when Lodi adopted a "nonsectarian" prayer policy in 2006. Nonsectarian means a prayer so vague that no particular belief system can be identified.

Nonsectarian prayers cause problems for three reasons. First, such prayers unfairly put the City Council in the role of "prayer police" who must continually scrutinize the content of invocations and enforce restrictions on how people can pray. Second, requiring people to refrain from acknowledging their particular religious beliefs deprives them of their free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. Finally, telling people they cannot say certain things during their prayer is government censorship - plain and simple.

The solution is not to further secularize government by restricting or eliminating invocations. Instead, Lodi should adopt the same policy used by Congress and the White House: Permit uncensored invocations that allow peoples of all faiths - or no faith - to participate. The Founding Fathers did not intend that religion should have no place in government affairs. Instead, they intended that all beliefs have equal opportunity to express themselves. They preferred pluralism over secularism.

Americans may not always agree with everything they hear, but at least until now, they have always been willing to defend with their lives the right of individuals to speak their mind free of government censorship.

No matter what a person's religious beliefs may be, each individual should have the right to officially address governmental authorities and commend those most sincerely held beliefs for the success of those who govern. Americans should be willing, from time to time, to listen to points of view they may disagree with rather than accept limits on their constitutional rights of religion and speech.

On Sept. 30 at 7 p.m., the Lodi City Council will conduct a public hearing on this issue at the Hutchins Street Square auditorium. Come out and let your voice be heard.

Ken Owen wrote and submitted this on behalf of Citizens for Uncensored Prayer, a coalition of local organizations, pastors, attorneys and citizens.

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Welcome to the discussion.

42 comments:

  • posted at 6:50 am on Mon, Sep 28, 2009.

    Posts:

    Keep your so-called god out of MY schools and MY government, what a waste of time and energy.

     
  • posted at 7:25 pm on Sun, Sep 27, 2009.

    Posts:

    If the haters would just give they're rumpled shorts a tug; they might just be able breath long enough to find a little peace in this world -- I know, I know, that's just not how it works is it?

     
  • posted at 5:47 pm on Sun, Sep 27, 2009.

    Posts:

    alf: Nice invitation.

     
  • posted at 2:51 pm on Sun, Sep 27, 2009.

    Posts:

    how many of you clowns here are going to show up for the council meeting? i bet not a handful of you will, let alone get up to the podium and state you case in public. i dare you to show up and state your case. see you at the meeting.

     
  • posted at 12:37 pm on Sun, Sep 27, 2009.

    Posts:

    @keleyw - Yes, the pledge is said in schools. Are you implying that it's somehow christian to recite such a pledge of allegiance to a piece of colored cloth? Or that the enforced patriotism helps children learn?

     
  • posted at 11:16 am on Sun, Sep 27, 2009.

    Posts:

    Society wonders why this country is going the way it is is because they want to take God out of everything. If it's wrong, it's wrong. This country was founded on CHRISTianity.God is already out of our schools, that's why they are the way they are. Next, out of our money. I'm not sure, but do our children do the "Pledge of Alligiance" in school anymore?Sad, sad, sad.

     
  • posted at 8:31 am on Fri, Sep 25, 2009.

    Posts:

    Cogito (1:24 PM): And that's the point.

     
  • posted at 8:30 am on Fri, Sep 25, 2009.

    Posts:

    anthropis wrote "As for your most unfortunate experience, no man or woman is empowered to judge the spiritual status of other people and the person you mentioned certainly should not be invited back to council meetings."Then it looks like only religious leaders that YOU agree with will be allowed to speak before the cc meetings. You see where this is going? You could say that one religion judges another just by what they believe and what they would say in a prayer at the cc meetings. I'd really like to know what kind of prayer would be acceptable to you by "all" religions.

     
  • posted at 8:24 am on Fri, Sep 25, 2009.

    Posts:

    Voter, with my knowledge of Mr. Owens' past actions in the community, I'll have to completely agree with you on that point. The CCC has never displayed a tolerance for anything non-Christian.

     
  • posted at 7:42 am on Fri, Sep 25, 2009.

    Posts:

    wrath

     
  • posted at 7:41 am on Fri, Sep 25, 2009.

    Posts:

    I think that Mr. Owen is being dishonest when he says that all faiths should be allowed to offer public prayers at the council meetings. He knows (hopes) that only Christians will show up to pray. The Ten Commandments make it clear that "Thou shalt have no other god/s before me." It's doubtful that he would want to have those of other faiths invoke God's rath on the city by praying to a golden calf, Vishnu, Odin, or whatever. Nope. He doesn't REALLY want other faiths to pray. That would be mighty dangerous.

     
  • posted at 4:35 am on Fri, Sep 25, 2009.

    Posts:

    davidd, the purpose of the invocation is to invoke 'The Higher Being, our Creator' to give His Blessings on the agenda and the people present as well as all people in this city and every city. I have never understood why that offends some people. As for your most unfortunate experience, no man or woman is empowered to judge the spiritual status of other people and the person you mentioned certainly should not be invited back to council meetings.

     
  • posted at 3:28 am on Fri, Sep 25, 2009.

    Posts:

    davidd, you must have some kind of ego issues to think that Mr. Owen would deny his relationship with God in order to spare your witto feewings. That's hysterical. There's no doubt in my mind Jesus would do the same thing as Mr. Owen would.

     
  • posted at 2:42 am on Fri, Sep 25, 2009.

    Posts:

    Anthropis, an invited speaker to the Lodi City Council once gave a prayer that condemned homosexuality, admonished abortion, and told us we were all going to hell. Are you really saying that we should respect that? In a public forum meant to address electric rates and police budgets?Should a Muslim or a Jew have to listen to that before they apply for a land use permit?If this policy is passed to permit anyone to say anything, I rue the day a Scientologist takes the podium and leads the council in a prayer for Xenu. Or Satan, Juno, Loki, Odin, Shiva, etc.

     
  • posted at 2:34 am on Fri, Sep 25, 2009.

    Posts:

    I had coffee with Mr Owen the other afternoon. After discussing his faith and his position on this issue, I asked him: "Ken, if you and I were the only people in the room, and there were no laws about prayer, but you KNEW that your prayer would offend me, hurt me, and ostracize me, would you still do it?"His answer, "Yes I would."My response, "Is that what Jesus would do?"

     
  • posted at 2:31 am on Fri, Sep 25, 2009.

    Posts:

    Once an elected group has invited a religious leader to ask an invocation it should be respected in good will by those present, after all this decorum has been a long standing American tradition.If you are so intolerant of others as they speak, then the problem may be with you and not the person invited to give the invocation or those who have invited him/her.

     
  • posted at 8:19 pm on Thu, Sep 24, 2009.

    Posts:

    I can't imagine how anyone would advocate uncensored invocations at every cc meeting. Why should all be subjected to listening to every religious rep that wants to say their piece at the meeting? The cc meeting should not be a place for such religious offerings. There is absolutely no reason why individuals cannot pray as they wish in private and then get on with the meeting.

     
  • posted at 7:49 pm on Thu, Sep 24, 2009.

    Posts:

    Cogito, It is simply not within the purview of men or women to 'publicly endorse prayer in a public building' nor for that matter to publicly deny prayer in a public building. The Right to pray orally or silently is an unalienable Right endowed by our Creator and can not be abrogated by fallible men.We mortal beings are so very bold and arrogant as we twist and adjust the meaning of America's organic documents!

     
  • posted at 8:14 am on Thu, Sep 24, 2009.

    Posts:

    Anthropis, I'm not against "prayer in the public square". What I'm against is publicly endorsed prayer, in a public building, by publicly elected representatives, doing official public business. In this forum, all citizens should be represented and respected, not just the religious ones. I'm all for "prayer in the public square" when preformed by private citizens or churches, in an unofficial or religious gathering. This isn't denying anyone their constitutional right to the "free exercise thereof" clause. You can sit in a public meeting and pray all you want, as long as you don't disrupt the proceedings. Why is this such a difficult premise for some to wrap their mind around? I'm flummoxed dude!

     
  • posted at 5:53 am on Thu, Sep 24, 2009.

    Posts:

    The Founding Fathers prevented any legislation of The Congress from making a law denying the free exercise of religion, they obviously believed that citizens are endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights.Congress has thus never made a law denying the free exercise of religion, however activist judges have created their own dicta, where our Creator is obviously subservient to them.

     
  • posted at 5:42 am on Thu, Sep 24, 2009.

    Posts:

    In my opinion those against prayer in the public square are in reality loyal adherents to the 'American Civil Religion' where the courts are the priests who dictate dogma and the people are compelled to follow.

     
  • posted at 4:23 am on Thu, Sep 24, 2009.

    Posts:

    Brian, I don't believe the founding fathers escaped a tyrannical governmental caste system based partly on religious beliefs, only to found a new country and set up their own. I'll agree to disagree. I'm off in an attempt to keep up with the mailbox myself.

     
  • posted at 3:59 am on Thu, Sep 24, 2009.

    Posts:

    Isn't that what we really want to believe the founding fathers vision of America was? A country for everyone? "-I believe what the founding fathers vision of America was is exactlywhat the White House and the Congressis still keeping as policy on this issue. Obviously your vision of a country for everyone is contrary to theirs. Ok, off to the salt mines. Later:)

     
  • posted at 3:46 am on Thu, Sep 24, 2009.

    Posts:

    Brian, what's "odd" about simply eliminating a ritual that's become out of place and divisive? Having an invocation before a public meeting has more to do with letting everyone in the room know "it's starting", than it has to do with personal guidance from whatever deity participants choose to follow. Start a new ritual to begin proceedings if you need a prompt to cognitively gather those in attendance. One that everyone can feel a part of. Isn't that what we really want to believe the founding fathers vision of America was? A country for everyone?

     
  • posted at 3:17 am on Thu, Sep 24, 2009.

    Posts:

    Cogito,Yes I know. That's what I meant to say.I suspect this issue would not have near the attention or significance had the Freedom FromReligon Alliance just stayed in the hole they crawled out of.As Ken said:"Lodi should adopt the same policy used by Congress and the White House: Permit uncensored invocations that allow peoples of all faiths — or no faith — to participate."But it looks like there are people like you who want to adopt a policy contraryto this. Now that's odd.

     
  • posted at 1:51 am on Thu, Sep 24, 2009.

    Posts:

    Billy, he's been driving out past where the pavement ends for some time now.

     
  • posted at 5:43 pm on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    Brian, I am not making a case for "keeping invocations". I'm making a case for their removal from the proceedings. I see the whole thing as divisive to the community, and completely unnecessary. I'd rather see people recite the pledge. And, during the recitation, one could choose to say, or not say, "under God". The pledge would seem to be more fitting to start off a public meeting.

     
  • posted at 5:29 pm on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    Has anybody else noticed Brian appears to be blogging from the far reaches of Opposite World lately?

     
  • posted at 3:22 pm on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    Cog,Your case for keeping religious invocations does have some merit.To this day, a good majority of Muslims in the world believe in the oppression of women. Although there are scriptures in the Holy Bible that advocate the oppression of women, presently this is almost a thing of the past for Christians.

     
  • posted at 2:46 pm on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    Brian, those things happen through legislation and the belief by all of our citizens that it's the right thing to do. Not all good ideas are borne from prayer. If you believe that the founding fathers were Godly men, and that they opened every meeting with a prayer, where did the ideas for oppression of women and killing Native Americans come from in the first place?

     
  • posted at 12:29 pm on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    Brian: Are you asking me to respond to you?

     
  • posted at 11:49 am on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    Cogito wrote on Sep 23, 2009 4:14 PM:" Brian, could you give me one valid reason why we need to say a prayer before a council meeting? Well, let's start by praying we don't ever see the slaughtering of all native Americans who won't move onto reservations. And never ever see the oppression of women by denying them to vote.

     
  • posted at 11:14 am on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    Brian, could you give me one valid reason why we need to say a prayer before a council meeting? Tradition is not a valid reason. Sometimes we, as a people, need to make a new tradition of respecting "everyones" beliefs. Really, where is the harm in dispensing with the opening prayer in a secuar setting?

     
  • posted at 11:04 am on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    And you're not ashamed of yourself for comparing a little prayer to these two things? Ok Cog, I'll pray for you.

     
  • posted at 10:23 am on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    Well Brian, maybe we should go back to not allowing women to vote, slaughtering all the native Americans who won't move into reservations, and owning people. Those are old American traditions too.

     
  • posted at 8:35 am on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    Lodian wrote on Sep 23, 2009 11:42 AM:" Cogito: I totally agree. "Report AbuseCogito wrote on Sep 23, 2009 8:42 AM:" I still believe, as a conservative Christian, that a prayer before a council meeting is odd, out of place, and unnecessary. I also believe that there is little sincerity by the majority of the participants. Simply do away with the whole thing. That's the best answer. "-There you go folks. Lodian and Cogitoare conferring that the founders of this country had it all wrong.

     
  • posted at 6:42 am on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    Cogito: I totally agree.

     
  • posted at 3:42 am on Wed, Sep 23, 2009.

    Posts:

    I still believe, as a conservative Christian, that a prayer before a council meeting is odd, out of place, and unnecessary. I also believe that there is little sincerity by the majority of the participants. Simply do away with the whole thing. That's the best answer.

     
  • posted at 2:20 pm on Tue, Sep 22, 2009.

    Posts:

    Nowhere in the Constitution does it say one shall be granted freedom from religon. Thanks for the good letter Ken. I'm one of those long lost Buckaroos in Royal Rangers at Century. You, Dave, and Richard were some of the leaders.

     
  • posted at 10:34 am on Tue, Sep 22, 2009.

    Posts:

    Ken, I am glad that we both agree that non-denominational prayer is not the solution.You are mistaken, however, that this is an issue of censorship. Invocations at council meetings are a government-sponsored activity. Because of this, traditional “free speech” rules do not apply. There are many things the government cannot say or support. I suppose you would be up-in-arms if the City were supporting gay rights. You would be saying that the City has no right to take an issue.Our argument is the same. Lodi United, a group of citizens representing every religion in Lodi (and non-believers too) believes that the City has no right to promote any particular religion through invocation.Instead, our solution is one you seem to be unwilling to consider: a moment of silence. I have yet to find someone that feels prayer in this manner is unacceptable or uncomfortable.Quite the contrary, being led in a prayer that is against your beliefs is divisive. Your solution has the side-effect of tearing apart our city, making minorities feel unwelcome.For those who agree, please learn more at www.LodiUnited.org or search Facebook for "Lodi United".

     
  • posted at 4:23 am on Tue, Sep 22, 2009.

    Posts:

    stella,Restricting prayer is necessarily anti-religious and violative of the first amendment. The purpose is not to promote a market of religion (the intent of the free exercise clause), but to silence religion. Secularism or atheism, then, becomes the state-sponsored religion, which violates the first amendment. The opposite of your conception of the restriction on prayer also works: having prayer at a meeting does not force anyone to pray with them. They can refuse to pray. There is no restriction on freedom that others praying imposes on those not praying. Thus, it's not clear to me how restricting prayer is any better than having prayer when no one has to join in the prayer.

     
  • posted at 3:28 am on Tue, Sep 22, 2009.

    Posts:

    Restricting or eliminating invocations does not prevent individuals from praying for their elected representatives. Individuals can pray all they want, wherever they want, with whatever words they want.

     

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