A release to the media yesterday forgot to include one crucial piece of information, which was never filled in by those conducting shoddy research within one local mainstream media outlet: Hartford’s City Council is not beginning to hold prayers at the start of their meetings; they have been doing this all along. At most meetings, the prayers have been Christian in nature. While the first amendment has been interpreted to mean that church and state should be separate, it has already routinely been combined. The first amendment reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Though no particular religion may be declared “official,” beginning almost every meeting with a Christian prayer seems like an endorsement of that religion over others. For those who believe in a secular state, this is an offense. For those who are not Christian, such practice can be alienating, though others may find it “unifying.”
Much of the recent outrage over this issue has been about the detail that upcoming invocations will be Islamic in nature. Some of those opposed to the prayers have said that this does not practice sensitivity, as this is occurring so close to the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and those terrorists “were Muslims.” Using this logic, then, we should have barred all public Christian prayer for a decade or more after the Holocaust, as those who committed such atrocities “were Christians.” We should have done the same after the Oklahoma City Bombing, after hate crimes against Gays and Lesbians, after abortion clinic bombings, and so forth. But we did not do that because most Americans were able to distinguish between the religious faithful and those who manipulate a religion to justify their criminal behavior.
If there is something to be outraged about, it’s that anything of the religious nature — more than silent, personal prayer — is occurring in a tax-payer funded structure.
Here is the simple press release from the City of Hartford:
In an act of solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, the Court of Common Council leadership has invited local imams to perform the invocations at beginning of the Council meetings in September. One of the goals of the Council is to give a voice to the many diverse peoples of the City, which is especially important given the recent anti-Islam events throughout the country.
Says Council President rJo Winch: “I feel it is very important that, as a Council, we project a culture of inclusiveness in the City of Hartford. Too often it is our differences that divide us. In my opinion, it is our combination of differences that makes us strong.”
If we truly want a culture of inclusiveness, then all faiths should be represented (even the unpopular ones) until the time that the City Council comes to its senses and realizes that government and religion should not be mixing.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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