Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
There is no legal or moral argument that supports the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer as part of the city council meeting. Not only does this mix church and state, it is promoting a specific religion, Catholicism. This is a no-brainer should someone challenge it in court. The Bill of Rights says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
And with the Fourteenth Amendment, these laws of the land were made to apply to any government underneath the federal level…state and local.
Long held precedent has created this wall between church and state which has stood the test of time. I will tell you, as a former Catholic (born, raised, and Confirmed) turned atheist, the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer makes me feel inordinately uncomfortable in my own city’s council chambers. It’s the sort of peer pressure (the pressure to not be left out, stand up, and recite something in which you don’t believe) that is illegal under the Constitution of the United States. I deliberately sit out the Lord’s Prayer, I certainly don’t recite it, but it is the state’s job to ensure it doesn’t take an act of courage (trust me, it is, albeit a small one) to be involved in one’s own elected government.
So I disagree with the motion made two weeks ago…we should not be examining the inclusion of other prayers in addition to this one. We should be nixing the inclusion of any sort of prayer from any religion in the official Council chambers of the City of Lowell. Unless, of course, the city wants to wait for someone to bring up a lawsuit which is sure to embarrass them.
If some of the Councilors, and members of the public, want to engage in reflective prayer before the meeting, they should feel free to do so - in a private room somewhere before the meeting starts. Then they can join the rest of us in furthering the State’s work…not the Lord’s. There is a time and place for religion and it is not during official city business.
By the way, Councilor Armand Mercier was quoted as saying, “It’s not broke. I don’t want to fix it. I have not had a complaint in all the years I’ve been there about saying the Lord’s Prayer, nor has anybody complained to me that it should be another prayer, so I don’t know where they’re coming from to say it’s not fair. What’s next, no Pledge of Allegiance to the flag?”
I think Councilor Mercier needs to hear those complaints from those of you who feel as I do - maybe you are a Catholic, but feel this is a misuse of government. Maybe you’re an atheist like me, or else of another religion. But it’s time to set aside such unconstitutional practices, just like we are hoping to set aside some ethically-challenged political practices in this city under our new City Manager. While you’re at it, send a note to all the other councilors as well. You can email them all at once or one at a time at this webpage.
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