Thursday, April 15, 2010

City Council Member Refuses Pledge and Prayer

In Huntsville there is a controversy about a council member who does not participate visibly in the prayer or Pledge of Allegiance before meetings. He stands respectively with his hands behind his back. He says it is due to his high regard to the "separation of church and state" in the First Amendment of the Constitution.

First, he is inaccurate to say the First Amendment contains "separation of church and state" - or even that it requires that in the way many (him included) interpret it. That phrase is a metaphor used by Jefferson in a letter. But Jefferson's own correspondence to the Founders who actually wrote the First Amendment (Jefferson was in Paris at the time) used the phrase "freedom of religion" to say why the First Amendment was a good idea. So to believe that you can't take part in these preludes because of the First Amendment is incorrect.

However, if he just worries that he might be doing something that is uncomfortable for some in the audience or in conflict with their beliefs, he certainly has the right to abstain. If the voters don't like that, I'm sure he will face an election again someday and that might affect the outcome. And I'm sure he knows that. I would have ignored the story if he had used fuzzier phrases like, "I want to make sure no one feels excluded" or similar, rather than invoking the First Amendment, that would have seemed to be entirely his choice.

Read the story here:

Huntsville Council Member to Explain Refusal of Pledge, Prayer Participation

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