Hawaii lawmakers halted the daily prayer in the state’s chambers out of fear of a court challenge from the ACLU. The Associated Press reports: (bolding is mine)
Fearing a possible court challenge, Hawaii’s state Senate has voted to silence the daily prayer offered before each session began — making it the first state legislative body in the nation to halt the practice.
A citizen’s complaint had prompted the American Civil Liberties Union last summer to send the Senate a letter noting that its invocations often referenced Jesus Christ, contravening the separation of church and state.
That prompted the state attorney general’s office to advise the Senate that their handling of prayers — by inviting speakers from various religions to preach before every session — wouldn’t survive a likely court challenge, said Democratic Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria.
“Above all, our responsibility is to adhere to the Constitution,” Galuteria said after Thursday’s vote to halt the daily blessings.
A three-member Senate committee formed to evaluate the issue recommended allowing nonsectarian, nonpolitical invocations that avoided references to deities, but the legislative body decided to do away with prayers altogether rather than constrain them.
“They (the ACLU) continue to threaten governments with lawsuits to try to force them into capitulating to their view of society,” said Brett Harvey, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, made up of Christian lawyers to defend free faith speech. “Governments should take a stand for this cherished historical practice.”
The sole Republican in the 25 member Senate, Sen. Sam Slom, asked fellow members to at least make the prayers voluntary instead of just banning the practice all together. According to AP reports he said: