ACLU Attacks Councilman Turner

Now this sort of crap really gets me. Councilman Hashmel Turner received a letter from the ACLU notifying him that his prayer at the beginning of the council session was illegal – specifically because he mentions Jesus Christ:

Ironically, the letter’s author, Kent Willis, Virginia director of the ACLU, is a Fredericksburg resident who said he voted for Turner in the last election.

Willis said such prayers at public meetings are not uncommon.

“I’d say about half the elected bodies in Virginia probably open with an invocation, and many of them use sectarian prayers,” Willis said.

And this can be particularly true of elected officials who are religious leaders.

“They are by their occupation inclined to render sectarian prayers,” he said. “This has happened over and over during the last 15 years.”

But, Willis said, “It’s one of those issues where there is no ambiguity.”

What many people may not know, however, is that prayer, in and of itself, is not verboten in public settings.

What crap. I am a firm believer in the Public Square, or the idea that all beliefs should be welcomed and discussed on their merits regardless of their claims. For instance, if Councilman Tom Fortune decided to offer a Bhuddist prayer at council meetings, I would have no problems with that because those are his beliefs and they should be respected, not hidden away. So long as City Council isn’t establishing one religion over another (e.g. by saying that only Bhuddist prayers should be offered) then I completely disagree with the position of the ACLU.

Since Council is so fond of defending itself in court agianst a myriad of allegations, why not allow Councilman Turner to challenge the ruling on the basis of the 1st Amendment’s non-restriction of religion? Surely “Congress can make no law,” but we are talking about expression – not enshrinement.

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