Earlier this month, an article popped onto my radar about a Wiccan in Great Falls, SC who is suing the city for beginning their meetings with a prayer. Interestingly enough, she is apparently only after the change of “Jesus Christ” to “Our Heavenly Father” or something similar. Definitely a reasonable sort it would seem. Of course if she wins, someone else will come along and want to change “Our Heavenly Father” to “Oh Great Deity of the Strip Mall” or something equally inane.
I don’t mind Wiccans or Satanists or even Atheists. That’s not my job. But there comes a point when you have to say that enough is enough. It seems pretty simple to me. You don’t like it, leave. Cover your ears. Get a drink. Buy some Doritos. If I attend the international sheepherders convention and talk breaks out about the big dance and which sheep you’re taking as your date, I’m going to find something else to do for a few minutes.
I’m sorry if my beliefs bother you. I’m sorry if any beliefs bother you. But there was a point when you were expected to have a tough skin. Anyone remember the sticks and stones rhyme? What the heck happened? If I go somewhere that holds beliefs predominantly different from my own, I’d expect to see things that might seem a little different to me. Doesn’t mean I have to participate. Even if I do, it doesn’t mean I have to request a change. Get over yourself.
Would you begrudge the members the right to hold to their own religious beliefs, were they exercised in private? Even in the company of other council members? Surely not – so the only issue is that it’s happening at a council meeting. Before a council meeting, in fact.
In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled in Marsh v. Chambers that the practice of opening a legislative session with a prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition did not violate the first amendment.
If this still isn’t good enough, the answer is painfully easy – move the prayer to a time a few minutes before the meeting itself should start. Those who do not wish to participate or be offended or otherwise feel excluded simply don’t need to show up until the appointed time. The meeting can start on time and the council can act in an official capacity at that point. Prior to then, they are simply individual citizens exercising their right to assembly.