Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

28 January 2009

End Government Prayers

By Diana Hsieh

Here's a surprisingly good letter to the editor recently published in the Colorado Springs Gazette on prayer at government meetings:

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Government-sponsored prayer sidelines those of different faiths

The case for respecting the true spirit of religious freedom by ending publicly sanctioned prayer was eloquently and rationally made by Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center ("Civil religion no longer fits nation of many, varied beliefs," Opinion, Jan. 19).

The activist religious right sometimes makes hysterical claims that the moral foundation of our culture is threatened without such state-sponsored displays of faith, or that eliminating official prayer "kicks God out of the public square."

They either fail to understand and sympathize with everyone's religious freedom, or don't value others' equal rights and want their own personal religious beliefs to be espoused as official state policy.

The absence of official prayer never precludes individuals from offering their own personal prayers. Many devout people of faith recognize that the separation of church and state protects their religious freedom, as well as others'. Numerous Christian principles themselves argue against pressing religious observances onto others, not least of which is Jesus' admonition to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

We should no more start a City Council meeting with a statement that God does not exist than begin with a sectarian religious prayer. Either is dismissive of a cross-section of our citizenry. Let's not wait for a court decision to end state sponsored public prayer; let's do it out of the goodness of our hearts.

Barb Ferrill Van Hoy, Executive director Citizens Project Colorado Springs

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