Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why one prayer and not another?

There will be a New Albany city council meeting next Thursday (October 19), and when it is called to order, there will be an invocation.

The city’s daily rulebook, otherwise known as the Code of Ordinances, explains the proper procedure for the invocation, which in this sense is best defined as “a form of prayer invoking God's presence, esp. one said at the beginning of a religious service or public ceremony.”

CHAPTER 30: COMMON COUNCIL
30.22 ORDER OF BUSINESS.
The following order of business shall be observed by the Common
Council at its meetings:
(A) Invocation. To be given by ministers, if present of different faiths.


Readers, if you’ve ever attended a city council meeting, you know that the invocation is not offered in this manner. Instead, the established custom is for all persons in attendance to stand like so many bashful schoolchildren and collectively mumble the Lord’s Prayer.

As a contrarian, pagan and atheist, I’ll confess that it makes little sense to me to mandate a public display of personal religious commitment. Doesn’t it demean whatever value there is to the notion of prayer to require its recitation? Does it count for more that way than if observed silently? Does reverence follow audible volume?

Granted, New Albany’s voluminous Code of Ordinances is routinely ignored, often with results far more deleterious to the city than the potential for embarrassment implicit in a long held habit of invocation that sadly and mistakenly assumes Christianity to be the only faith worth citing.

It’s also true that in this case, the ordinance is poorly and ambiguously written. Is the invocation to be said only if ministers are present, or perhaps only if ministers of different faiths are present?

I believe the passage in the ordinance implies an obligation to allow ministers of different faiths, if present at the council’s biweekly meetings, to offer invocations – including, perhaps but not necessarily restricted to, the Lord’s Prayer. Nothing in the wording suggests an obligation on the part of those in attendance to do any more than listen, if that.

As currently practiced, the council’s invocation is a de facto rejection of cultural diversity, yet significantly, the ordinance itself need not be changed. It merely need be enforced.

Animists, Muslims, Wiccans, Confucians … we need you to attend a city council meeting and to insist that your version of an invocation be heard in the manner described by the original ordinance.

Diversity would be more entertaining. However, holding your breath is not recommended.

8 comments:

Ann said...

I think that there are times when it's inappropriate to pray or use an invocation--and a government business meeting is one of those times. I can't say that it bothers me that much, it's just out of place at a City Council meeting.

It would be pretty humorous to see how a Muslim prayer at Council would be received. Would everyone be expected to kneel and face Mecca?

ceece said...

I too, would like to see other faiths represented by prayer. I hope that our leaders, when reciting the prayer, do it so they may receive the spiritual guidance they desire to help them make the best decisions.

Isn't that why the prayer at the beginning of the meeting was probably started in the first place? So it's understandable why we don't have any pagan chants in the beginning of the meeting. I don't think there are any pagans on the council, or even in meeting attendance for that matter.

Roger, as an athiest, why does it matter to you what faiths are represented by prayer? Or is this the contrarian in you? Shouldn't it not bother you if a muslim prayer is not recited. Why start shit if it doesn't matter one way or the other. You won't be reciting one no matter what, right?

Has anyone come forward and asked for a Jewish prayer or Buddhist prayer to be recited and then they in turn, have been shot down? I would be interested to here Maury's feelings on this.

To you the Lord's prayer holds no meaning whether said out loud or silently, so I'm not surprised that you have trouble understanding the importance to some people when the prayer is recited. To you it's nothing more then a few words strung together. To myself and other's, it represents much more then that. Goals and reminders of behavior and how it should be.

Again, I have no problem with other faiths being represented at the meeting, but please don't try to place fault to those who do hold value in the Lord's Prayer.

Nothing in the wording suggests an obligation on the part of those in attendance to do any more than listen, if that.
-Is anyone arguing that point? Or are you just upset because, to you, people are being sheepish by standing and reciting. Is it so hard for you to believe that people can be intelligent and religious? Talk about lack of acceptance and tolerance :-)
(BTW, it would not offend me either if they did away with the outloud prayer either.)

The purpose of this whole post may just be to call out the clarity (or lackthereof) of the ordinance, but it comes across as much more of an accusation or attack. So forgive me if I'm reading way more into this then I should.

I eagerly await your response, for my own clarification.

The New Albanian said...

Ceece wrote:

I too, would like to see other faiths represented by prayer. I hope that our leaders, when reciting the prayer, do it so they may receive the spiritual guidance they desire to help them make the best decisions.

I would prefer they base their decisions on the weighing of facts with some semblance of connection to reality as human beings experience it.

I haven't said that people cannot be intelligent and religious, but I do support the separation of church and state, and this is the issue here. But, until we're able to have a sensible discussion of why there must be an invocation in the first place, might we at least honor the ordinance as written -- with all the entertaining potential consequences? (Thanks Ann - the kneeling part cracked me up).

knighttrain said...

Hell, lets have all faiths represented and we can just have the "New Albany Prayer Hour" before every council meeting. With some of the decisions made I can understand the reason for prayer after the meetings. Seriously, iI think the whole thing should be dropped. Perhaps next year, council president Coffey will tackle this issue----God help us all!!!!

G Coyle said...

"our Father, who art in heaven.." personally, I've never felt I had a Father in heaven to pray to, although I've always thought the Lord's Prayer was a dandy prayer. So there's just a cognitive dissonance for me in trying to summon supernatural guidance over sewer finances and what not downtown. So I agree with Ann, and Roger, why the prayer? In the larger CIVIC scheme of things though, it doesn't matter much...more prayers, more christmas trees, more easter bunnies.

The New Albanian said...

Gina, this is really funny: "So there's just a cognitive dissonance for me in trying to summon supernatural guidance over sewer finances and what not downtown."

Lest Ceece believe (mistakenly) that it's directed at her, let me repeat that if you need to pray to balance the budget, it's all good with me. But why must everyone in the room be subjected to it?

Iamhoosier said...

Religion has it's place--within the church, within the home and within the heart. Religion should not be within the government. Period.

CannonFarms said...

Church and State. I sure do not want my church ran by our Government! I sure do not want my Government ran by your church!
If you exclude the praying, (which I doubt will happen) it must be replaced with something. Like everyone must eat a piece of candy or shake hands with everybody in the room. I'd as soon stay with a prayer.