Defending our constitutional right to pray

Defending our constitutional right to pray

Anti-religious group attacks Delaware County, Ohio Commissioners

Prayer – at the beginning of a legislative session.

It is a tradition rooted in the history of our nation. Opening legislative sessions at the national, state and local levels to ask God’s favor and direction is a tradition that has been an integral part of our nation’s heritage since the time of our founding.

It is tradition protected by our Constitution.  The First Amendment says that the federal legislature cannot make laws “respecting the establishment of religion” or that would “prohibit the free exercise” of religion.  The Supreme Court has ruled that merely invoking Divine guidance by a government official is not “establishing” a religion.  Legislators have the right to pray prior to session, and to pray according to the dictates of their individual faith and conscience.

Since 1947, though, an organization with the spurious name, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), has been working diligently (and, alas, all too often, effectively) to take away this fundamental right.  Headed by the “Reverend” Barry Lynn, AU during the past few years has made the elimination of prayer from all government functions one of their major initiatives.

No level of government has escaped their attacks. But Lynn and associates have scored their easiest victories against local (county, township, municipality) agencies, which can be easily intimidated by the threat of expensive lawsuits.

Most recently, the Board of Commissioners of Delaware County, Ohio has been their target.

On December 10, AU sent Delaware County Commissioners Glenn Evans, Kris Jordan and James Ward a letter citing seven specific dates on which their opening prayers had been “sectarian” in nature and warning that such prayers must cease.

The letter falsely claimed that there was a constitutional requirement to keep prayers nonsectarian, and went on to make it clear that AU’s ultimate goal was the elimination of all prayers by the commissioners.

To justify their threat, the AU cited the Supreme Court’s Marsh case.  Ironically, that very case exposes their deceit and bigotry.  It reads as follows:  “To invoke divine guidance on a public body…is not, in these circumstances, an ‘establishment’ of religion or a step toward establishment; it is simply a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country.”

The Court went on to reference the prayers delivered at the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention as examples of what would and should be historically and traditionally permitted.  Included in those sample prayers were invocations brought in the name of Jesus, by invited guests.

The AU letter demanded a response within 30 days.

Fortunately, the Delaware County Commissioners contacted our office, and we were able to put them in contact with our legal alliance partners at the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF).

Citing both the Constitution and case law, ADF assured the Commissioners that their prayers – including sectarian references – were constitutional.

This attack on the Delaware County Commissioners is an attack on the religious freedom of all citizens.  Please let the Commissioners know that you support them in rejecting this attack on their right to pray.

By clicking on the link below you can send the commissioners a note of affirmation and thanks.  Further, the commissioners need your prayers, as they must make a decision regarding a response  prior to their January 10 board meeting.

Please take just a moment to let the Commissioners know that you stand with them.


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