Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Legislative Prayer: Round Two Beginning?

Today's Indianapolis Star features a story entitled "Clergy-led prayer returns to House" written by Mary Beth Schneider. In the story, Schneider reports that the Indiana House is returning to minister led prayer for the first time in nearly 3 years. The practice had been disbanded over a lawsuit filed against the practice which was eventually dismissed for lack of standing of the plaintiffs.

Let me say from the outset that I think many of the prayers have gone way over the line in terms of propriety and should have been reigned in by legislative leaders. However, having said that, I think it is highly unlikely the merits of any legal challenge would have held up on appeal, even if the Plaintiffs had standing. The fact is that there has been prayer before legislative sessions for 220 plus years. At the Constitutional Convention, the delegates started each day with a prayer. During the debates, they quoted from scripture. The first Congress that considered the Bill of Rights, including the Establishment Clause, started each day with a prayer as did the state legislatures which ratified the first 10 amendments.

The exercise of bad judgment and a lack of "inclusivity" in the prayers selected does not equate to a constitutional claim. That's even before you get to the separation of powers principle that says that legislatures cannot tell courts how they are conduct business any more than courts can tell legislatures how they are going to operate. The lawsuit was destined to fail. Again, that's not saying the prayers did not go overboard - clearly they did. They just were not unconstitutional.

I do get a kick out of reading the comments many readers post about how the Founding Fathers would be outraged by public expressions of prayer in the Indiana General Assembly and elsewhere. Those people need to go back and actually read about those Founding Fathers said during the early days of our country rather than simply mouth politically-correct slogans unsupported by history.

1 comment:

Diana Vice said...

Right on target...again! And I thought I was the only person right all the time. : )

I also appreciated your posts on civil rights as well as the immigration issue. They were very informative and thought provoking. In fact, the post on the immigration issue has caused me to rethink a couple of my previously held positions.

We need more people like you who aren't afraid to speak the truth even when it hurts. It's the only hope for the future of the Republican party.