Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Government Sponsored Praying... Yeccchh!

Susan Narvaiz, mayor of San Marcos, Texas, sent a letter to area clergy and congregations inviting them to "a community wide prayer gathering" to pray for the city's sister city, Santiago, Mexico, and its mayor who was recently tragically killed. This prayer event took place Aug. 30, 2010.

Adding to the inappropriateness of a government-sponsored community prayer event, the mayor wrote the clergy:

"Also, August 30th marks the one year anniversary since we held a prayer meeting for rain, we will give thanks for the rain that we have been so blessed with this year. Please let me know if you have any questions, we believe this is the right thing to do to show our support for Santiago, and we need your help!"

It is a serious violation of our treasured constitutional principle of the separation between church and state for any elected official to hold a public prayer service, or to enjoin citizens to pray at all. Prayer is something that Thomas Jefferson as president pointed out was beyond the purview of elected officials. Elected officials hold civil powers alone.

This is not the first time that San Marcos is in the news for mixing religion and government. The San Marcos city council prays at its meetings. San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz backs that too, saying "I think it’s our right (to pray at government meetings). It’s our history. If they can do it in Washington, we can do it in San Marcos. I have a belief that it serves a higher purpose to do so."

An interesting point... but the folks "in Washington" are wrong, too.


G said...

A government official inviting people to a community wide prayer gathering not necessarily "government sponsored praying." Nor is it a violation of the establishment clause. Becoming a government official does not mean one must relinquish his 1st Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.

csm said...

It certainly does, at least in an official capacity. What s/he does on his/her free time is of no concern to anyone; what they do in an official capacity cannot endorse, sponsor, condone, etc. any relgigion or religious activity.

G said...

That's odd. Hasn't congress been opening their sessions with a prayer since the very beginning? Doesn't the SCOTUS begin every session with the invocation, "God save the United States and this honorable court"?

As I stated in the other thread, the view of the Establishment Clause by those who authored and ratified the Constitution was much different than the view you hold.

The Free Exercise clause is just as much a part of the 1st Amendment as the Establishment Clause. And it says nothing about government officials relinquishing that right to free exercise. It doesn't distinguish between public and private life.

Lou said...

Think of it this way. If we could get them spending more time in prayer and/or more vacations then they will have less time to spend MORE money.

csm said...

You guys are conflating what is actually happening with what the words of the Constitution say should be happening.