The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Prayers Under Attack, Again!

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The ACLU has a great racket going on. It sues city and county governments over sectarian (Christian) prayers and the posting of the Ten Commandments and then gets paid for its efforts when judges rule in favor of the ACLU’s arguments. Nearly two years after an anonymous resident sued Barrow County in Georgia to remove a framed copy of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse breezeway, county commissioners authorized a payment of $150,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union.. This is an outrage. Not only are the ACLU’s arguments specious and unconstitutional, but the history behind their arguments lack foundation. The judges who rule in favor of the ACLU are equally ignorant of history.

Now we learn that the ACLU and an atheist group have joined with a professing Christian “arguing that sectarian prayers at the beginning of meetings constitute a restriction of religious liberty.” At the June 7, 2005 Cobb County (Georgia) Planning Commission meeting, the following proved offensive to some: “We pray that the spirit of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, will direct everything that is said and done in this place today.” Attorney Gary Pelphrey, who has joined with the ACLU against Cobb County, “is identified in the suit as a ‘practicing Christian’ who is opposed to prayers at public meetings because ‘he believes the prayer practice is a demeaning act both to his religion and to his government.’”[1] Pelphrey’s declaration of opposition is not a constitutional argument. I could claim that not offering a prayer acknowledging God’s providence and a failure to appeal to Him for wisdom in decision making are truly demeaning. Since when does “a demeaning act” trump the Constitution? I believe abortion and homosexuality are demeaning acts, but I would not argue this way before the court.

Not only don’t these groups have logic on their side, but history and the Constitution are also against them. The Constitution of the United States acknowledges Jesus Christ. It dates its pronouncement “in the Year of our Lord,” giving the date as “one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven,” an obvious recognition of Jesus Christ There is no attempt to be religiously pluralistic by our founders. You will hear from groups like the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State that dating a document in terms of the Christian calendar was conventional for the time. If it was the purpose of our founders to be religiously neutral—self-consciously secular (a religion itself)—then why confuse future generations of lawmakers by referencing Jesus Christ? How do these atheistic organizations and mis-informed Christians like attorney Gary Pelphrey answer the detailed historical analysis done by Supreme Court Justice David J. Brewer on the place of the Christian religion on the founding and maintenance of the United States?

"In no charter or constitution is there anything to even suggest that any other than the Christian is the religion of this country. In none of them is Mohammed or Confucius or Buddha in any manner noticed. In none of them is Judaism recognized other than by way of toleration of its special creed. While the separation of church and state is often affirmed, there is nowhere a repudiation of Christianity as one of the institutions as well as benedictions of society. In short, there is no charter or constitution that is either infidel, agnostic, or anti-Christian. Wherever there is a declaration in favor of any religion it is of the Christian."[2]

The evidence for America’s Christian founding, according to Brewer, is not even “debatable.” He states that “the quotations from charters are in the archives of the several States; the laws are on the statute books; judicial opinions are taken from the official reports; statistics from the census publications. In short, no evidence has been presented which is open to question.”[3]

The debate over issues like displaying the Ten Commandments in government buildings and distinctly Christian prayers opening official government meetings must be settled by an appeal to the history of the founding of our nation and not based on a single person’s definition what is “demeaning.”

What do we make of the first prayer in Congress in 1774 offered by Jacob Duché and its specifically Christian reference? It begins with these words: “Lord our Heavenly Father, High and Mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords.” It ends with these words: all this we ask In the Name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.”

On March 16, 1776, Congress called for a “day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” throughout the colonies stating that it is “indispensable duty of these hitherto free and happy colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent devotion, publicly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him; and to supplicate his interposition for averting the threatened danger, and prospering our strenuous efforts in the cause of freedom, virtue, and posterity.” There was the recognition of “God's superintending providence.” The people were called on to bewail their “manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies.”

On November 1, 1777, the Continental Congress proclaimed a day of public thanksgiving for the recent victory at Saratoga. Congress set December 18, 1777 as a day of thanksgiving on which the American people “may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor” and on which they might “join the penitent confession of their manifold sins . . . that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance.” Congress also recommended that Americans petition God “to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”[4]

The ACLU will dismiss these examples, the courts will almost certainly ignore them, and judges will protest when we call for a change in the judiciary.

Endnotes:

[1] Steve Fitzsimmons, “ACLU challenges prayers at Cobb meetings,” The Marietta Daily Journal (August 11, 2005), A1.
[2] David J. Brewer, The United States: A Christian Nation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, [1905] 1996), 24.
[3] Brewer, The United Sates, 29.
[4]www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/vc006494.jpg

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