• Ceremonial Prayer

    prayer meetingSupreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy claimed that prayer (even explicitly Christian prayer) is not really religious; it is just ceremonial. It is merely a tradition and has no real religious purpose.

    That’s funny, because there seems to be a whole lot of religious people who seem to care an awful lot about a merely ceremonial prayer. If these prayers are not an explicit endorsement of religion, then why does it even matter at all? Why are religious believers so hell bent on putting these prayers before government meetings and why are non-Christians fighting against prayers that don’t really mean anything at all?

    Personally, I’m surprised more fundamentalists aren’t offended by Justice Kennedy’s claim that these prayers are merely “ceremonial.” Isn’t that blasphemy? Keep in mind that fundamentalist Christians were not shy about their outrage even toward Jesus’s wife, Sarah Palin when she equated Baptism with torture. Interestingly enough, she did it for a sound-byte and doesn’t even agree with her own statement. Kennedy does stand behind his view that pray before government meetings aren’t really religious.

    Of course, if prayers before meetings were religious, then Kennedy would have to concede that they violate the Establishment Clause and he would be forced to have ruled against these prayers. But Kennedy is an old fashioned guy who likes tradition. He doesn’t see the harm in it, so he would rather find some way of just keeping the “ceremonial” tradition.

    Unfortunately, there is harm in this type of thing. These types of prayers are a way to exclude people and to make them feel like outsiders to their own government. If I had a grievance that I wanted to take up with this legislative body, this type of prayer would set the tone against me right from the start because I am not a Christian. This type of prayer turns our legislatures into Christian-only churches where other people are allowed, but not really welcome. It is also another huge crack in the Jeffersonian Wall of Church/State Separation.

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    Category: featuredPoliticsReligionsecularismSeparation of Church and State


    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.