Marriage is love.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Civil Religion, or the National Faith

It's about time legislators discovered this concept.

Indianapolis Star

House prayers can't invoke Jesus: Federal judge declares that invocations advancing a specific religion are unconstitutional

A federal court judge Wednesday barred prayers that mention Jesus Christ or endorse any religion at the opening of each daily session of the Indiana House of Representatives.

Judge David Hamilton found that the House practice breached the clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibiting government establishment of religion. While not banning prayers in the House, Hamilton ordered that any person chosen to give the invocation be instructed it must not advance any one faith or be used in a bid to convert listeners.

Hamilton, who based his decision on a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision setting boundaries on legislative prayer, said all are free to pray as they wish in their places of worship.

"The individuals do not have a First Amendment right, however, to use an official platform like the Speaker's podium . . . to express their own religious faiths,'' Hamilton said....

Related column by Ruth Holladay: Tolerance a casualty of battles over religion

Civil Religion is not a new concept. One might quip that it involves being civil with each other. I have the following book from 1951. With some updating for gender references and the presence of polytheistic religions in America today, it would work well.

Faith of America
by Mordecai Kaplan
Available for ONLY $3.00

Readings, songs, and prayers for the celebration of American holidays; contains poetry and readings from diverse sources including Tennyson, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Vincent Benét, FDR, Thoreau, The New York Times, and Woody Guthrie for holidays from New Year’s Day to Arbor Day to Flag Day to Labor Day to Election Day to Thanksgiving Day; softback 328 pgs © 1951

More helpful sources for legislators on how to do public prayer without offending people:

Guidelines for Interfaith Prayer Services
Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington


NCCJ: When You Are Asked to Give Public Prayer in a Diverse Society: Guidelines for Civic Occasions.

Faith leaders and others are sometimes called upon to present prayer at civic occasions. These individuals hold a special responsibility to be clear regarding the public nature of the occasion and must be sensitive to the audience’s diversity of faiths. NCCJ published these guidelines for inclusive public prayer as a tool for leading authentic prayer in a way that can easily be shared by listeners from different faiths and traditions.