In Office Since January 2010

Protect Our Tradition of Prayer in Public Places

Our country was founded by people fleeing oppression because of their faith. As a nation, we have a long history of opening and closing public meetings with prayer to invoke the blessings and guidance of the Almighty on our endeavors.

An early instance of public prayer by those who founded one of the first colonies on American soil was the Mayflower Compact, the signatories on which included one of my direct ancestors. The Compact began with the words “In the name of God, Amen.” It was signed the day before the Mayflower made port in 1620, and made frequent reference to the Almighty.

The US House of Representatives, in accordance with Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution, elected its first Chaplain at its first meeting on 1 May 1789, and has opened each session since with an opening prayer. The Senate has done likewise since 25 April 1789.

So long as Congress, or any other legislative authority in this country, does not attempt to establish a state religion, there is no Constitutional prohibition on prayer at public meetings. In fact it is protected by the First Amendment. The “Wall of Separation between Church and State” that Thomas Jefferson mentioned in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut was actually intended to illustrate the protection of religious rights from actions by the state. Jefferson would be appalled that his words are being used to justify prohibition of religious expression at public meetings. The Constitution protects freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Those who wish to be free from religion may be so, as long as they do not infringe on the Constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion by others.

US and Washington State law both protect the right to prayer at public meetings. Courts have set guidelines that make such exercise of religious freedom somewhat difficult, and there is always the threat of lawsuits from those who would deny the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens. The discussion the council needs to have is whether to exercise our constitutionally protected freedom of religion to offer brief prayers to open and close public meetings, and whether we can afford the lawsuits that may follow.

It is a discussion we should have. It should not be shut down by those who use debate limiting tactics to achieve their ends.

Let the debate begin! And may the Almighty inspire us and guide us to a proper conclusion.

To see the interview with Dave regarding prayer in public places, click the link below. interview prayer in public places