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Indiana joins push to allow public body prayers

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Indiana is one of 22 states hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will allow prayers that endorse a specific religion before public government meetings.

The Indiana attorney general's office last week signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to exempt public bodies from screening opening prayers for sectarian references.

The high court's justices said in May they would review a federal appeals court ruling that found upstate New York town of Greece, a Rochester suburb, had violated the Constitution by opening nearly every meeting over an 11-year span with prayers that stressed Christianity.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Greece should have made a greater effort to invite people from other faiths to open its monthly board meetings. Two residents who are not Christian complained that they felt marginalized by the steady stream of Christian prayers and challenged the practice.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that prayer that doesn't endorse a particular religion is acceptable at public meetings. But Indiana and 21 other states want the justices to hold that sectarian prayer is also constitutional.

"The Court should reject the assumption that the content of private citizens' prayers before legislative assemblies is attributable exclusively to the government," Indiana Attorney General said in an Aug. 2 statement. "Such prayers, rather, are expressions of private belief made in service to an elected body of citizens."

Indiana Civil Liberties Union of Indiana legal director Ken Falk told The Journal Gazette, "The Supreme Court has never ruled directly on the question when the prayers get more overt. How far can they go? That is the question in this case."

Members of both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly hold prayers before each session. Legislative leaders have said they invite faith leaders from diverse backgrounds to give the prayer, but most are led by Protestant clergy. House Speaker Brian Bosma was not available for comment Friday.

A federal judge ruled in 2005 that Indiana House prayers mentioning Jesus Christ or using terms such as savior amounted to state endorsement of a religion. But a federal appeals court threw out that decision on a technicality in 2007 without ruling on the prayer issue.

Many other public boards in Indiana observe a moment of silence rather than sectarian prayer.

The Fort Wayne City Council holds a moment of silent prayer, and council President Tom Didier said he always says "Amen" out loud at the end.

"This country was founded on freedom of religion, so for me, the founders would be rolling over in their graves the way we treat Christianity now," Didier told The Journal Gazette.

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  • Pandering to the lowest common denominator at taxpayer expense
    Thomas Jefferson, author of the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty, and James Madison must be spinning in their graves when they see an Attorney General attempting to promote government sponsored sectarian prayers. So, if they win, do Christians have to listen to Islamic prayers praising Allah in the name of "equal time?" Perhaps they would do well to review this from the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams and ratified overwhelmingly by Congress in 1796: Art. 11. "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." This is but one more attempt by the radical right to use the power of government to promote their specific religious beliefs at the expense of the rest of us who do not share those beliefs and to minimize our status as American citizens. It is a waste of taxpayer money and pandering to the lowest common denominator. AG Zoeller should be ashamed of himself.
  • AG job description
    I'm really getting tired of Attorney General Zoeller sticking his nose into everything except the job to which he was elected AND GETS PAID to do. Instead he goes from one cause to another on the right wing's agenda. He inappropriately defended Charlie White's election as Secretary of State. He has spent time and resources pursuing an anti-gay marriage agenda. Now he goes after another highly partisan matter which is not at issue in any case in which the AG is a party. You need to resign as AG Zoeller. Join some right wing think tank if you want to carry their water. I don't want my tax dollars paying for it!
  • Good point Andrea
    And silent prayer and reflection would be a solution if the whole thing wasn't the Christians of the American Taliban trying to push their agenda and their agenda alone. Religion preys on the fears of the stupid to perpetuate itself and all through history those in power seek to use religion and those fears to manipulate. We cannot let it happen in our halls of government. Religion is perhaps the worst thing mankind has ever concocted. It has no place in the ztatehouse. Period.
    • Silence
      What's so wrong with a simple minute or two of silence to let everyone pray/reflect as they chose? That's true freedom of religion.
      • Is this respectful - It really happened
        One striking example took place April 5,2005 in the Indiana House, when the Rev. Clarence Brown of Second Baptist Church, of Bedford, encouraged lawmakers to stand and clap as he sang "Just a Little Walk with Jesus." If that's not an endorsement of one religion then I have no idea what one is. The sad thing is no one stopped it.
      • Equal time
        If they end up allowing prayer, then give those of us who don't believe in their imaginary friend equal time to air our beliefs.
      • Look at what you just wrote
        You won't tolerate a minority bullying people of faith. Well, that's exactly what would happen if only Christian prayer were allowed in the statehouse, which - though veiled - is exactly what the American Taliban is pushing for trying to force any kind of religion as the standard for...well, not just government but pretty much anything.
      • Freedom FROM religion.
        Imposing one mythology over another simply because it just happens to be the mythology you believe in is not freedom of religion. Like I said, think of religion and public prayer and what Indiana is trying to do here as second hand smoke. They have no more a right to mandate that a certain religion be recognized than they do to smoke in a restaurant. If you told the same people who are pushing for this (bet you dollars to donuts they're "Christians") that, OK, we're going to allow secularized prayer...five times a day everyone at the statehouse has to face Mecca and pray...there would be, as they say, "hell to pay." Religion has no place anywhere near government, influencing government or business officials..period. When I hear a Cindy Noe respond to "what's your plan for fixing our streets" with: "I of course will pray on it" it simply makes me cringe. And it's not a liberal POV...it's an intelligent human being with an IQ abouve 50 POV.
      • Freedom to worship
        Your comment is incorrect on so many levels. First, your snide and snotty little subject line shows your closed-mindedness. Secondly, the Constitution guarantees freedom OF religious expression; YES, in the public square. Thomas Jefferson held church services IN THE HOUSE CHAMBER, weekly. I have not problem with Jewish, Muslim, Christion, Mormon, etc., prayers, if they are delivered respectfully in public buildings. What I won't tolerate is the small minority bullying those of faith.
        • Garland
          Wow... what a cynical world view you have. Way to stand up for the rights of everybody! I'm sure the ACLU would be proud. Remember... the Bill of Rights says "OF" not "FROM". But then again, in the liberal mindset the Constitution is supposed to be a "living document"... right.. The liberal mindset confounds me. One more thought - it's the right to "PURSUE" happiness. Not the right to be happy. Thanks to the Constitution, you are free to complain about the situation all you want and even work to change it. That said, we, on the other side, have those very same rights. Credo, Domine. Adiuva incredulitatem meam.
          • If You Won't Pray In My School, I Won't Think In Your Church.
            Prayer and the foisting of any religion - let alone specific ones - on any one at any time outside the confines of the church or the cult compound or the temple or the Thetan Master Control Bunker – should simply not be permitted. Again, if you won't pray in my school, I promise not to think in your church. Government offices. Schools. Businesses. If there is a chance that one sensible, intelligent, realist (aka atheist) or impressionable child is going to be assaulted by the messaging, it should be confined to the Church in question. Freedom of religion also should include freedom FROM religion. Think of these prayers as second-hand smoke for people's brains. We don't need it.

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