For those of you worried about government stepping on religion I’ve got a story from Lancaster where a school board has decided to give up their introductory prayer for meetings and instead replace it with silence!
It seems that folks do object to this new policy, but according to an August court ruling that determined that schools can’t open their meetings with prayer because there may be children present and a school board meeting is an extension of public school- that means that there can be no formal prayers to open the meetings.
Handed down in August, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision found that a Delaware school board violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution with its public prayer policy.
On the advice of legal counsel, the three local districts have reluctantly replaced prayer at their meetings with a moment of silence, joining six other districts in Lancaster County that, for years, have begun their meetings that way.
Four other districts neither pray nor observe a silent pause at the start of their meetings.
Only four districts — Columbia, Eastern Lancaster County, Lampeter-Strasburg and Octorara — now pray at their public meetings each month.
School board members that recently stopped the practice said they had little choice but to change to avoid potential legal problems.
“I hate it that we had to do this,” said Ferris, president of the PV board. “Our community is a very strong, Christian-based community and we have never had anyone question us opening a meeting with a prayer to my knowledge.”
But to avoid a legal challenge that could involve expensive legal fees, the school board’s solicitor advised members to stop praying in public, he said.
“All nine board members disagreed with the decision but felt it was the right thing to do to comply with the law.”
The August ruling overturned an earlier decision by a Delaware district court that said school board prayers were protected speech under a Supreme Court statute that allows legislative bodies, such as borough councils and state Legislatures, to pray publicly.
But the federal appeals court ruled that school board meetings — because they are often attended by students — are an extension of the public school environment, where public prayer is not permitted.
Got that? People can pray in silence, but they can’t pray together in a public assembly connected with schools where kids might be present!
It seems to me that religions are going to have to bring back the idea of an ‘untouchable’ or a ‘scape goat’. If they did that then someone would be able to show up at these public meetings dressed like a religious person, let’s say in a camel hair shirt, and they could pray like a full out crazy person and then they could run away before police could be called in. There could be whole teams of untouchables, we can think of them as if they were part of a religious SWAT team.
Or perhaps we could open meetings with an ode to the ancient Christian symbol used to protect believers from Rome’s oppression. For example we could start meetings with “An Ode to A Fish”. Anyone got any ideas on writing it?
From whom we are all adapted,
Teach us to swim in perfect schools and help us to protect our weakest members.
Remind us through your gentle life that it is good to keep moving.. Pour your liquid grace out on us as we come together to look for answers.
And when we separate, provide direction and support for us so that we can rest in quiet pools and shallow waters, safe and secure, in your name, Oh great Fish!
Here is more of the story from Lancaster Online: