Ren's Ramblings & Writings

Contemplations on things tangible and intangible

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Facebook message to C/S Councilman Bernie Herpin-re: religion during government meetings

Hello Mr. Herpin,
I wanted to contact you regarding the praying while running the business of government that taxpayers pay for, for example, during public council meetings. I am a minister, albeit, not christian, and when I attended a council meeting a while back, was concerned that only christian prayer was taking place at the start of the meeting. City councils  are government entities, and members of the council should not abuse their authority by having official prayers.  The taxpayers do not pay our tax money for elected officials to take government time, and facilities, to pray. They pay them to run Government. Government, and its representatives, need to remain neutral regarding religion otherwise the religion starts to run government, and ultimately the rest of us without our consent. Also, not everyone who objects to government run prayer is an Atheist. The best form of government is a secular one. Not Christian, not Muslim, not atheist, but secular! I have a strong feeling that Christians upset that "atheists" (or those of any other spirituality) are against this would have a much stronger reaction if a Muslim city council member wanted to conduct an Islamic prayer. There is always a time for prayer, but in this case, it should be private, with perhaps a few moments of silence to allow those of differing beliefs to do what suits them during that silence.

thank you-
Rev. Renee L. Ten Eyck

More of the ongoing conversation posts, NOT in direct order;  Mr. Herpin's posts were posted previously, along with posts of many others, and I've included my current replies to his posts:

It's an invocation given by a person who has ageed to offer a few words prior to the council meeting starting. The invocation has been given by people of varying beliefs including Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Native American, and alternative beliefs. The US Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of integrating a moment of silence/prayer at public meetings (Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783).

"Coming from a fairly traditional Southern upbringing, I was not at all initially surprised when a voice came over the PA and asked everyone to rise for the invocation. I had been through this same ritual at many other high-school events an
d thought nothing of it, so to our feet my wife and I stood, bowed our heads, and prepared to partake of the prayer. But to our extreme dismay, the clergyman who took the microphone and began to pray was not a Protestant minister or a Catholic priest, but a Buddhist priest who proceeded to offer up prayers and intonations to god-head figures that our tradition held to be pagan."
Bernie Herpin regarding your noted court case: Palmer characterizes his prayers as "nonsectarian," "Judeo Christian," and with "elements of the American civil religion." App. 75 and 87 (deposition of Robert E. Palmer). Although some of his earlier prayers were often explicitly Christian, Palmer removed all references to Christ after a 1980 complaint from a Jewish legislator. Id. at 49. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that both practices violated the Constitution. Justice Brennan, with Justice Marshall joining, wrote in a dissenting opinion, "The Court makes no pretense of subjecting Nebraska's practice of legislative prayer to any of the formal "tests" that have traditionally structured our inquiry under the Establishment Clause. That it fails to do so is, in a sense, a good thing, for it simply confirms that the Court is carving out an exception to the Establishment Clause, rather than reshaping Establishment Clause doctrine to accommodate legislative prayer."[1]

I will not vote to abolish the invocation. It is permitted and does not endorse any particular religious belief.

Bernie Herpin that, Mr. Herpin, proves that you could care less about "all" Americans, caring only about those you deem worthy, despite the fact that the Constitution mandates no gov't establishment of religion-and the fact that YOU work for the citizens-not the other way around. Your job is to run the city, not to be a preacher

I don't select who gives the invocation. If it is respectful, come on down. Have your Priestess call Dean at 385-5986 and asked to be put on the schedule.

Bernie Herpin Lemon v. Kurtzman
The Court's decision in this case established the "Lemon test", which details the requirements for legislation concerning religion. It consists of three prongs:
 1.The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;
 2.The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
 3.The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.
If any of these 3 prongs are violated, the government's action is deemed unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

recent Facebook message to Mr.Herpin Feb 5, 2013:

Legislative Prayer: Can legislatures open meetings with prayers?
Government is generally forbidden to deliver, sponsor, orchestrate, or encourage prayers. Since the nation's founding, however, many legislatures have traditionally opened their meetings with prayer. Given this historical tradition, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that legislative prayers are constitutionally permissible if, but only if, they do not use language or symbols specific to one religion. (Courts have held, however, that elected school boards are different than legislatures, and are forbidden to open their sessions even with nonsectarian prayers.) Furthermore, prayergivers at legislative sessions may not exploit the prayer opportunity to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief. A number of federal courts of appeals have thus held that sectarian prayers (i.e., prayers using language specific to one faith) before legislatures or other representative bodies are unconstitutional. One court, with jurisdiction over Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, has taken a more limited view, concluding that sectarian prayers in legislatures are permissible as long as they do not proselytize.
Even apart from using sectarian language, there are many ways that legislative prayer might impermissibly proselytize, advance, or disparage a particular faith. Those who do not wish to be present for a prayer must be allowed to leave and may not be excluded from participating in the rest of the meeting. And those who do not wish to stand or bow their head for the prayer must be allowed to remain seated and must not otherwise be penalized for their nonconformity. A prayer practice may also be unconstitutional if a legislative body selects prayer-givers based on their faith or excludes some faith groups from offering prayers. Thus, if a legislative body invites clergy to deliver prayers, it should strive to invite a wide variety of faiths and should instruct the prayer-givers to make their prayers nonsectarian, ecumenical, and inclusive of minority faiths.
If your representative body offers a prayer and one or more of the following statements is true, the prayer practice may be unconstitutional:
Clergy or other invited guests offer the prayers, but minority faiths are excluded from being prayer-givers.
The prayers often contain explicit references to a particular deity, symbolic religious language, quotations of religious texts, or statements that promote, advance, or denigrate a particular religion.

Americans United: get-involved-report-a-violation

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