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March 09, 2003

Why Legislative Prayer Should End

Washington State is in a bit of an uproar because two legislators walked out on a muslim prayer opening the legislative day:

Two Washington state lawmakers set poor examples by walking out on the opening prayer by a Muslim religious leader at their legislative session.
We're not sure what to make of the comment by Republican Cary Condotta, who said he "wasn't particularly interested" in the prayer.
More troubling is Condotta's fellow Republican, Lois McMahan, who called her snub "an issue of patriotism."
Now, there's no reason a believing Christian shouldn't be offended by a prayer invoking a religion he or she finds offensive.

Which is about how most atheist politicians and Americans feel about invoking God at all.

As our country becomes more multicultural with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and other faiths demanding equal time at "non-denominal prayer" events, the idea that any invocation of God is somehow "non-religious" will become increasingly untenable.

Whether "under God" in the pledge or "In God We Trust" on the money-- it all should go.

Posted by Nathan at March 9, 2003 08:17 AM

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Apparently Washington State voters got angry and forced those two assholes to go back in and listen to a Muslim prayer the second time. I think Hesiod has the story.

Posted by: John Isbell at March 9, 2003 04:39 PM

It's been mentioned in several blogs, including my own (since I'm a Muslim living in the Seattle area). What's really sad about this is that the Muslim cleric was praying for the success of the legislature and of America. I mean, it was an explicitly patriotic prayer. As far as I can tell, McMahan's only grounds for saying her walk-out was "patriotic" is that she thinks that Islam itself is bad or that all Muslims are bad, even when their words or actions demonstrate the contrary.

Posted by: Al-Muhajabah at March 9, 2003 08:22 PM

Yet I am quite serious that the Christian legislators have the right to find Islam or Judaism or any other religious prayer repugnant.

There are real differences in theology between faiths and to assume that they are all "basically the same" so their prayer are easily substituted for each other is itself a form of theology that many people disagree with.

Just removing prayer from public events is the best solution all around.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at March 9, 2003 08:38 PM

Absolutely, there is no justification for forcing legislators to listen to any prayer at all: separation of powers, anyone? But if you're going to listen to some prayers, as an elected official, it gets a lot tougher to publicly walk out on others. And then make inflammatory comments about why you're doing it.
Private citizens can walk out on anything they want to, of course.

Posted by: John Isbell at March 9, 2003 08:46 PM

Oh hey - thanks for mentioning "In God we trust" on the money. I think that was added around the 1930s. along with the Masonic symbols (pyramid, eye, etc.). It gets left out of the debate.
For coin collectors, there's a famous series, "In gold we trust", I think on the silver dollar? Someone got fired at the Mint for that joke.

Posted by: John Isbell at March 9, 2003 10:47 PM

John has expressed better than I did what I was trying to say. I think that there's a very good argument to be made for not having prayer in situations like this. But I find it unfortunate that the impetus may be the bigoted actions of some people.

Of course, Christian prayers to Jesus (peace be upon him) may be quite theologically offensive to non-Christians.

Posted by: Al-Muhajabah at March 10, 2003 05:45 PM

Public prayer - Christian or otherwise - by government bodies is often offensive to some Christians. Even in the days when I used to teach Sunday school and sing in the church choir, I found it offensive. Jesus was against that sort of thing, remember.

As an American, I don't want anyone, of any religion, feeling that they are compelled to express my spiritual beliefs, let alone anyone else's. And if trying to use the idea of public prayer to create respect for diversity of faiths is an excuse to expose private beliefs to public bigotry, that just underscores the necessity to keep it the hell out of government.

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