County Prayer Decision Right and Wrong

As one who has put his trust in Jesus Christ, I was saddened by the decision of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday evening. In the face of a potential lawsuit from the “Freedom from Religion Foundation,” the Supervisors decided in the near future that prayers before their meetings must be non-sectarian in nature. “Non-sectarian” of course is the code word for “Christians can’t pray in the name of Jesus.”

 Was I disappointed and offended? Yes.  But even so, I think the Supervisors made the right decision.  Judging from recent precedent and court rulings, any attempt to defend the present policy of allowing Christian pastors to pray in Jesus’ name would surely lose in court.

And then the County would likely have to pay over one hundred thousand dollars in court costs to the Freedom from Religion Foundation.  The atheists would line their pockets with our tax money and then go on to scam other municipalities, as they are doing all over this area of the Country.

 The Supervisors decided they must formulate a prayer policy acceptable to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals since any lawsuit would probably wind up there; and the Fourth Circuit has a history of approving non-sectarian prayer at public meetings.  But, as one Supervisor said, “It makes me sick that the state of affairs in our country has come to this.”

 I believe it would sicken the Founding Fathers as well to know that, today, local governments must have the approval of a human court for the kind of prayers they offer to Almighty God.  But the sad fact is we no longer live in a “sweet land of liberty” under Constitutional law.  We have become what Thomas Jefferson warned we would be if judges were given virtually unlimited power and tenure.

 Where in the Constitution do judges find there should be no prayers to Jesus before meetings of governing bodies?  No prayers at graduations?  No Ten Commandments on the school wall?  And where is the touted wall of separation between church and state?  The First Amendment forbids Congress to establish a tax-supported official state church such as exists in England.  That is its sole intent. The County Board is not Congress, and a five-minute prayer before sessions is not establishing a state church. Ironically, the Amendment’s next clause says Congress must keep its hands off the free exercise of religion in America. But it seems the courts have forgotten that one.

 So what can citizens do when the courts have created and follow a body of legal precedent even a child can see is at odds with the intent of the Constitution?  Apparently very little.   As one lawyer recently told me, “In court, what the Constitution says doesn’t matter.  All that matters is what the judges say the Constitution says.”  Welcome to the judicial dictatorship.

  Maybe we Christians should take a page from the atheists’ playbook and file our own lawsuit claiming discrimination.  After all, Jesus instructed His followers to pray in His name, and stated flatly that no one comes to God except through Him.  So if Muslims, Buddhists, Confucianists, Hindus or Wiccans can pray as their faith prescribes, why can’t Christians?  It is plainly discrimination on the basis of religious belief.  What legal and logical contortions could a court possibly use to deny that?

 Then again, maybe we should take the long view.  Maybe we should let the humanists and atheists make the case for Christ for us.  One of the strong indications that Jesus really was God in human flesh is, two thousand years after he lived on earth, God’s enemies would still go to court to keep his name from being heard.

– Tom Taylor, Roanoke