“Discontinue prayer at public meetings” LTE

580216_10151537993694327_1946310874_nA recent letter to the editor (LTE) I authored titled “Discontinue prayer at public meetings” was published in today’s edition of The Times Leader both online and in print.

This letter urges members of Wilkes-Barre City Council to discontinue their tradition of government-led prayer at public meetings, encourages locals to join me in opposition to prayer, and references a recent letter the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent to council which similarly urges a cessation of government-led prayer.

The text of my letter to the editor, slightly modified because of an error [the next council meeting is July 16, 2013 and not July 11], follows:

On June 13, 2013, I addressed Wilkes-Barre City Council objecting to government-led prayer and urging council to remove prayer from government meetings. I detailed why I object to governmental prayer in a follow-up written piece now available on justinvacula.com, was since featured in local media and was most recently backed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) who joined me in my dispute with Wilkes-Barre City Council.

FFRF’s three-page letter argues that government prayers are exclusionary, unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive while noting that council members may pray on their own time rather than during public meetings in which they lend power and prestige to religion in a governmental endorsement which excludes 19% of a nonreligious American population.

FFRF also states that “[t]he state of the law regarding the constitutionality of government-sponsored prayers is unstable,” affirms the secular character and founding of the United States, and notes Jesus’ exaltation — during his Sermon on the Mount address — “do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. … when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father who is unseen” (Matthew 6:5-6).

The letter’s final paragraph reads, “The solution is simple: discontinue official, government prayers at your meetings. We urge you to concentrate on civil matters and leave religion to the private conscience of each individual. If government meetings must show reverence, let it be for our secular and godless Constitution, which enshrines the greatest American invention — the separation of state and church.”

I will once again address council in its next open meeting including public comment on July 16, 2013. I hope to see local residents at this meeting and encourage them, like me, to prepare five-minute remarks addressing council whether they defiantly continue prayer or remove it from the sessions.

Learn more about my objection to government-led prayer at Wilkes-Barre City Council meetings. Visit the ‘council prayer‘ category on this website and listen to my appearances in local media including television news interviews and talkradio interviews; discussion of the council prayer issue on various podcasts; commentary and reporting; and much more.

Watch the below video, my original objection to council prayer during the July 13 council meeting, and read why I object to prayer in a lengthy piece I authored.

As always, feel free to leave comments below and please join me at the July 16 council meeting in which I will once again object to prayer (or thank council for removing from from public meetings if they select the right action and remove prayer). Prepare statements, bring video recording equipment (or a cell phone), and support my appeal to council.

Action alert: July 16 council meeting

"Man Objects To Prayers Before City Council Meetings" c/o WNEP TV-16
“Man Objects To Prayers Before City Council Meetings” c/o WNEP TV-16

Wilkes-Barre City Council will be hosting its next council meeting on Tuesday, July 16 [not July 11 as I had previously believed]. I encourage local church/state separation advocates to attend this meeting with prepared comments objecting to council’s tradition of government-led prayer.

I first addressed this issue and members of council during the June 13, 2013 city council meeting. Council chair Bill Barrett, following my remarks, said council would research and ‘get back to me’ concerning whether council would continue its tradition of prayer.

Approximately one month later, I have heard nothing from council members despite extensive media coverage and a recent letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent to council.

I hope to be joined by locals who wish to help remove government-led Judeo-Christian prayers from city council meetings. Get up from behind your keyboard, prepare a short statement (or even offer an impromptu statement if you wish), take a public stand against religious impositions in government, and tell members of Wilkes-Barre City Council you object.

Interested parties who may not want to offer statements for whatever reason are still encouraged to attend. Witness the events of the July 16, 2013 council meeting which may include other objectors (or supporters) of government-led prayer. Bring a camera or an audio recorder to record the council meeting. Support, in whatever form, which takes little effort, would be very much appreciated.

If all goes well, council may even remove prayer from its public meetings and I will instead offer a speech thanking council, affirming the secular character of the United States, and explaining why removal of prayer was the right decision. I will have two speeches prepared and will deliver statements regardless of whether council continues prayer. Hopefully I will not have to read another speech objecting to prayer.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me through the contact form on this website.