LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Monday, February 22, 2010

Misunderstood After All These Years

Until last December, neighboring Buncombe County invited various Protestant ministers to offer prayer at the beginning of the County Commissioner meetings. The County Attorney advised the group that a Federal judge has recently ruled that a similar policy in another NC county represented an illegal governmental establishment of religion because the prayers were all Christian in nature.

The attorney advised that the commissioners not invite clergy and if they wanted to continue prayers they should be led by the commissioners themselves and should not use language specific to one religion.

A huge outburst resulted. Most of the outspoken people protested loudly against a "generic" prayer. A flurry of letters to the editor of the local newspaper indicated that since "most" of the Buncombe County residents are Christian, it shouldn't matter if they invoke the name of Jesus Christ in the prayers at a public government meeting. Others insisted that there is "one true and living God manifested through our Lord Jesus Christ" and that any prayer not so directed is not a prayer. "There can't be a generic prayer since there is not a generic God."




Perhaps my favorite reasoning was the echo of similar concerns here in our county when the issue came up about school board meetings. One of the members insisted the prayers did not favor one religion...that they represented ALL religions...Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and even Episcopal. However, she failed to explain how "in Jesus name we pray" represented Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or other non-Christian religions or even atheists or agnosics for that matter.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I have belonged to the ACLU for many, many years.

13 comments:

The Bug said...

Oh where do I begin? I think I'd be preaching to the choir, so perhaps I should just keep my mouth shut. I'm sending your link to my ACLU member husband...

Appalachian Lady said...

Our county board of supervisors always start with a prayer but not sure they mention the word Jesus. No one would dare question it here. I don't really have a problem even though I am not a Christian.

I love the cartoon--perfect.

Cedar ... said...

When a person says there can be no generic prayer because their "god" is the only one I cringe. I'm always amazed that people can be so blind to the diversity of life and beliefs on this planet. Good post.

Vicki Lane said...

Have none of these folks read the New Testament verse that directs people to be not like the Pharisees, but to pray in private?

A moment of silence could allow each person to pray to whom or whatever they chose. Or to think about their grocery list, if that seemed more appropriate.

robin andrea said...

I don't even understand why County Commissioner meetings have to start with a prayer at all. Maybe one month they could start with a song, then a dance, a poem, a moment of silence. There are so many ways to acknowledge the bigger truths.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Religion is more a custom or tradition than it is about thinking in the upper and lower south. Yes, they are in your face with it but that is their ritual that they have had for years. It is tough on other spiritual and religious ways but they cannot see or understand that part of the equation. Bear with them -- most have good hearts.--barbara

Rudee said...

The picture says it all. We need to honor the beliefs of all, not just one group over another. There really needs to be a separation of church and state to avoid repeating mistakes and persecutions of the past.

We all know, or should know, that history likes to repeat itself.

amarkonmywall said...

Ah, me. See what I'm moving into? I can't wait and there's no sarcasm there. I'll deal with the idiosyncrasies of the locals just to enjoy the my life there. This past weekend was spectacularly beautiful on the border of Buncombe/Henderson counties and my fingers were, quite literally, twitching and spasming to get into the soil. Instead I spent 3 days in WNC Tile Co selecting floors, counters, shower tile. And then I started thinking: "Oh, dear. MY house has no plumbing. How can I spend several days here planting my garden in April because the house won't be finished until June 15 and that's too late...who do I possibly know in the area with indoor plumbing and a shower??? Let's see...someone with dogs...someone who feeds the birds, knows the local garden stores, someone, there must be someone..." It will come to me soon, I just know it.

troutbirder said...

Great post, Carolyn

KGMom said...

Hope it's ok to say AMEN to your thoughts.
Me too--ACLU--long time.
When I have this argument with my very religious (read--conservative Christian) relatives, I always say--substitute another name for Jesus...Buddha, Allah--and see if you are still comfortable with that prayer opening a public meeting.
Their response--they almost always splutter.

Scattering Lupines said...

I've never understand why people choose to be oppressive about their religion. Oxymoronic. Though I know in some ways, I have been guilty of it before, too...

Coffee with Cathy said...

Thank you for opening up this topic in such a well-reasoned way, Carolyn. I absolutely agree with Vicki Lane's comment -- it always amuses me when folks get in tussles about public prayer as if trying to prove that they're more religious than you are. I believe Jesus had something to say about that. By the way, Carolyn -- love your header photo, as usual!

Lew said...

Some people seem to think that the First Amendment gives them the right to force their religion on others with the help of our government.