Jean Barker

Church in State

2014-05-27 08:31

There's a place for group prayer, for those who believe, and sometimes even for those who don't. My top "appropriate group praying location" picks would be houses of religious worship.

There's also plenty of opportunity for one on one prayers: that moment when you want to down a bottle of wine, but shouldn't, and you need a little help saying no. Or that moment when your computer stops working right on deadline. Or when your life is in danger.

Nobody should be forbidden to pray as they wish. But...

There are also times when I believe prayer, especially prayer specific to a certain religion, is a violation of the rights of those who do not identify with it, and a waste of taxpayers' time. The US Supreme Court and I don't agree, here. On Monday, they ruled that the city council of Greece, N.Y. may feel free to open its meetings with prayers "in the name of The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives with you." The two women - one atheist and one Jewish - who brought the lawsuit together will be forced to continue to sit through prayers in the name of Jesus Christ before they get down to doing their jobs.

What the hell is going on here? Well it's just another example of how the constitution is loosely, if at all, adhered to in US lawmaking. Everybody has religious freedom... everybody, that is, but the kids whose parents have a legal right to enrol them in religious schools so extreme that they deny evolution and other scientific principles. Everybody but those whose reproductive rights are infringed on by government sucking up to religions that oppose them, or whose suitability for public office is loudly questioned unless they're either Christian or Jewish. And then there's "In God We Trust" on the money. Just because you can't trust your financial institutions doesn't justify involving a higher power in banking.

Religion is mixed up everywhere it doesn't belong.

I heard a supporter of the decision to allow the town of Greece to continue with their Christian prayers argue on the radio that "Just because a prayer is being spoken doesn't obligate any individual to participate." Can't disagree with that, however if the whole point is to unify people in some higher purpose, this defeats it.

You could also argue that just because everybody else isn't praying doesn't obligate you not to. If this is truly a relationship with God, I say to religious people in response: feel free to offer up a silent, non-disruptive prayer in your head - or out loud in your own time, to whoever your deity may be. Or how about a moment of silence, so that everybody can pray as they prefer?

But if you want to bring Jesus, Allah or any other deity into the room, please do it on your own time.

- Jean is a screenwriting/directing dual MFA student in California, USA. She tweets as @jeanbarker
and blogs pictures of signs and more, here. She will be back.

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