There’s one thing that can be said about liberals. They are persistent. They never surrender. They never give up. They work hard to wear down the opposition. Case in point.
“Two secularist organizations are working together to end legislative prayer before city council meetings in a northern California municipality. “For years, Chico city council members have invited local religious leaders from various faiths to lead invocations prior to official city council gatherings.”
While I’m all for prayers; it would be nice if the council members actually paid attention to the fact that God exists and there are laws to be acknowledged and obeyed.
A prayer isn’t a magical incantation absolving those who pray from the built-in moral standards that make our world work.
But back to the complaint lodged by the two secularist organizations.
“However, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) — a Wisconsin-based, church-state separatist group — and the Butte County Coalition of Reason (BCCR) — a local atheist organization — are pushing to have the prayer tradition stopped. After learning of the regular invocations, an FFRF attorney sent a letter on June 27th to the Chico mayor, asserting that the prayers ‘are a repudiation of our secular history,’ and that the ‘best solution is for the Council to drop these prayers altogether.’”
The phrase “a repudiation of our secular history” made me laugh. In terms of America’s founding history, there is no such thing. Even Thomas Jefferson, the patron saint of secular groups like FFRF, cannot be called as a witness to their cause: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” (Found on the third panel of the Jefferson Memorial.)
One of the first orders of business of the first Congress was to appoint chaplains. Bishop Samuel Provoost and Reverend William Linn became paid chaplains of the Senate and House respectively. Since then, both the Senate and the House have continued regularly to open their sessions with prayer. (Not that it does much good. See my point made above.)
The inauguration of George Washington was followed by “divine services” held in St. Paul’s Chapel in New York, “performed by the Chaplain of Congress.”1
The first Congress that convened after the adoption of the Constitution requested of the President that the people of the United States observe a day of thanksgiving and
“That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.”
After the resolution’s adoption, Washington then issued a proclamation setting aside November 26, 1789, as a national day of thanksgiving, calling everyone to “unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.”2
- Anson Phelps Stokes and Leo Pfeffer, Church and State in the United States, one-volume ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 87. [↩]
- Quoted in Stokes and Pfeffer, Church and State in the United States, 87. [↩]