Since our nation’s inception, prayer has played a vital role in our development. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, after days of quarreling among the delegates, Ben Franklin stood up and called the assembly to say, “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”
Many of our greatest presidents, including Washington, Lincoln and Reagan, unashamedly acknowledged God publicly, as did our Congress on the Capitol Steps after Sept. 11, 2001. Since 1789, the United States Senate has convened each session with prayer. So, why is the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State so concerned about voluntary prayer at Town Board meetings in the upstate New York town of Greece?
The case, Town of Greece v. Galloway, is to be heard on Nov. 6 by the Supreme Court (“Small town, big impact: Supreme Court case could define religion’s role in public,” Web, Oct. 3). While this case involves two offended residents who objected to prayer before Town Board meetings, the real issue is much larger and appears to be another attempt to further eradicate any public expression of faith.
The issue is simple, really. As a free people, we have been given the right to freedom of speech. If voluntary prayer is desired to be offered before a council meeting, a football game or a high school graduation, no one can deny free people that right. The prayer is not mandatory. Those who wish not to participate have every right not to do so, but they have no right to deny those who wish to invoke God’s assistance.
This is not, nor has it ever been, an issue of separation of church and state. It is a matter of freedom — the freedom to express publicly, without fear of reprisal, our need for God’s assistance.
A nation that offered such hope for the Pilgrims and Puritans as a land of refuge from religious persecution now finds itself embattled in a legal quagmire over the very freedoms upon which our country was founded.
ED MULVANEY JR.