Friday, December 02, 2005
  House Prayers Can't Invoke Jesus
I've been trying hard not to post twice a day, although sometimes it is a challenge when many important or fascinating things are going on. This one just couldn't wait... A federal judge has ruled that the daily invocation at the beginning of the House of Representatives sessions can't be performed in the name of Christ or any other sectarian diety. Thank God! My faith in the judicial system has been restored (at least temporarily). One hopes Mr. Hamilton makes it to the Supreme Court one day.

Of course, I don't see why there should be an invocation of God at all. Ideally, a minute for private reflection, dedication, and prayer.

Anyway, here's my write up of the incident:

Federal Judge Rules Opening Prayers Can’t Invoke Jesus
By Pamela K. Taylor

Indianapolis IN. Dec 1, 2005. Federal Judge David Hamilton has ruled that the prayers opening each day’s session of the Indiana House of Representatives must be non-sectarian. The ruling specifically states that the prayers must not be made in the name of Jesus and that people chosen to give the invocation must be instructed that they may not advance any one faith or use the prayers in a bid to convert listeners. Hamilton based his decision on a 1983 Supreme Court ruling setting the boundaries of legislative prayer.

“Individuals do not have a First Amendment right to use an official platform like the Speaker's podium to express their own religious faiths,'” Hamilton said.

The case, which was filed by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four citizens, contended that the House opening prayers -- a 188-year old tradition – were overwhelmingly Christian and at times stepped over the bounds of prayer into proselytizing.

One preacher advised the representatives “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Another advocated worldwide conversion to Christianity: “We look forward to the day when all nations and all people of the earth will have the opportunity to hear and respond to messages of love of the Almighty God who has revealed Himself in the saving power of Jesus Christ.” Another “prayer” included the singing of a hymn at which Rep. David Orentlicher, D-Indianapolis, who is Jewish, walked out. These and other incidents prompted the lawsuit.

Of 53 prayers offered in the House during the 2005 session, 41 were delivered by people identified with Christian churches, Hamilton's written opinion says. Of the 45 prayers for which transcripts were available, 29 were offered in the name of Jesus, the Savior and/or the Son.

While some religious leaders have decried the decision as another incidence of court discrimination against Christianity, it has been welcomed by members of various faiths – Jewish, Muslim, and Christian.

It is likely that the ruling will have ramifications for other government bodies in Indiana that have prayer to open meetings, such as city councils or school boards.

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Can you imagine the reaction if a Muslim got up at the House of Representatives and said, “We look forward to the day when all nations and all people of the earth will have the opportunity to hear and respond to messages of love of Allah, the Almighty, who has revealed His Word to Prophet Muhammad in the Qur'an.” Or if a Hindu advices the reps, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Vishnu.” Or maybe a wiccan sang a hymn in praise of the Goddess. Oh yeah, the first would have Daniel Pipes jumping up and down, calling for him to be packed off to jail as a suspected Islamist terrorist.
 
Comments:
OMIGOD! This is you!

I was about to write my post on the Indiana ruling and had no idea it was you who wrote this article -- or that you were a fellow Hoosier. Fantastic stuff. When I read this in the Indy Star I chuckled out loud. Bravo!
 
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Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.


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