Sunday, December 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

So what do the rest of us do during the prayer?

By
From page A11 | May 14, 2014 |

In a recent column, I suggested that our nation might be better off if we didn’t spend so much time reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, a ritual that originated from a combination of xenophobia and a desire to sell flags and flagpoles to every school.

I expected some criticism and, certainly, one reader said that I must be an atheist or a homosexual. Or both.

But, surprisingly, 84 percent of the email in the response to the column was sympathetic. A school principal from Indiana said that he was required by state law to lead his school in the Pledge over the intercom every morning for 29 years. He hated the monotonous groupthink.

Many readers expressed resentment at the coercion implicit in a mass of citizens standing to profess their allegiance, and they developed their private methods of resistance. For example, some who don’t believe in God or who don’t think the government should be in the business of endorsing a religious viewpoint admitted to skipping the words “under God.”

An 85-year-old veteran from Missouri expressed his discomfort at the rote repetition of the Pledge, adding that when the text reaches “with liberty and justice for all,” he always adds “who can pay for it.”

Accordingly, the Supreme Court probably shouldn’t assume citizens’ unalloyed support of its ruling last week that the town of Greece, N.Y., had not violated the Constitution by opening its monthly town hall meetings for a decade with a series of sectarian Christian prayers.

The court’s four dependable conservatives and the sometimes swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, all Catholics, relied heavily on the notion that such prayers are merely ceremonial and traditional, dating back at least to the First Continental Congress. Essentially they said, “We’ve always done it this way, so it’s OK to keep doing it.” Of course, slavery dates to those days, as well.

But, in short, the court said that invoking the wisdom and guidance of the Christian deity before legislatures deliberate the welfare of our country doesn’t violate the Constitution. But how well has that worked out, at least lately?

In any case, the liberal justices, three Jews and a Catholic, disagreed. Justice Elena Kagan, writing in dissent, makes a distinction between ceremonial prayers before legislators, who are all more or less on an equal footing, and sectarian Christian prayers delivered in the intimate setting of a town hall meeting, a place where citizens approach officials to petition for considerations and benefits like licenses and zoning variances.

A Jew or Hindu or atheist who isn’t comfortable standing and bowing his head while a minister exhorts the “congregation” about the salvation that can be found only in Jesus might wonder if his demurral undercuts his case before the town council.

Too bad, said the court’s conservatives, winning the case, 5-4. Citizens who don’t like the prayer can pretend to pray, play Candy Crush on their mobile devices, leave the room, or just not show up at all.

But my experience with the Pledge suggests that some citizens, even good Christians, may not be that comfortable with a prayer that the court says is acceptable because it’s merely “ceremonial.”

In fact, some Christians might take more seriously than their ministers do what Jesus said about prayer in one of my favorite largely ignored scriptures, Matthew 6:5-6: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men . . .  when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

Few forces are more imperious than the sanctimonious combination of piety and patriotism. But if you’re outside the American religious mainstream, the court says dismissively, “Deal with it.” Or you can just leave the room.

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune, teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Readers may send him email at jcrisp@delmar.edu.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 7 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • PornacMay 13, 2014 - 6:55 am

    Religion, any religion, does not belong in any American government meeting or building. I guess I just have to deal with it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MadelineMay 13, 2014 - 10:06 am

    I'm pretty sure there are a couple of hundred young captured girls who rather be here than with the Boko Harim. No matter what anyone says I always believed and said the pledge with all my heart. I was born in the greastest country on earth. People take their liberty in this counrty for granted because the price has been paid. So they find so much to complain about. If their life where on the line they would shut up fast. Take a step back and reflect on the rest of the world. We are not alone. We are Blessed.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • LilMay 13, 2014 - 2:00 pm

    While everybody is praying, start singing "Baby got back" at the top of your lungs. You can claim that is how your religion prays.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • patrickMay 13, 2014 - 2:28 pm

    LIL really a stupid idea

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • LilMay 13, 2014 - 11:49 pm

    It's called a joke. Too bad you don't get them.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JesseMay 13, 2014 - 2:08 pm

    A blanket federal law that prevents prayer in town hall meetings accross the nation is less imperious than piety and patriotism? You want to tramp down the liberty masses to eliminate the possibility of offending a select few. The opposite of what our country was founded for.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The MisterMay 13, 2014 - 4:20 pm

    "So what do the rest of us do during the prayer?" Reload.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Shining bright for all to see: Locals deck out yards, homes

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
The Salvation Army serves 1,000-plus across 2 days

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Blue Christmas service offers reflection, hope

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1

 
Time for annual Solano County quiz

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

State Fair scholarship applications available

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Bevy of holiday activities at Western Railway Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Discovery Kingdom upgrades animal, marine mammal facilities

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Get tested, know your status

By Morgan Westfall | From Page: C4

 
 
New development fees start Jan. 1 in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

Free New Year’s celebration slated

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
A word of warning for Senator Warren

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: B7, 1 Comment

 
New technology chief will join McNaughton Newspapers

By Tanya Perez | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Sky-high price has VA rationing hep C drug

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

.

US / World

Air Force admits nuke flaws, but will fixes work?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
AP sources: Cops’ killer angry at chokehold death

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

 
Officials: Missing dog was dyed to deceive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Immigrants build document trails to remain in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

California officer kills teen after machete attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
4 teens die in fiery head-on crash in Pennsylvania

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

2 dozen injured in southern Indiana bus crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Police brutality protesters rally at Mall of America

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Texas ranchers seeking alternative incomes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
North Korea proposes joint probe over Sony hacking

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

2 car bombs rock southern Sweden’s city of Malmo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Bombings kill 12 in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

US sends 4 Afghans back home from Guantanamo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Panama’s Noriega in prison 25 years post-invasion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Burying the dead after Pakistan’s school massacre

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
A chance to breach divide for young in Cuba and US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
New school finance strategy lacks accountability

By Dan Walters | From Page: A8

Season’s greetings from the Obamas

By Alexandra Petri | From Page: A8

 
Sound off for Dec. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Why celebrate Christmas?

By Noel Reese | From Page: C3

Vatican offers olive branch to US nuns

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

 
Horoscopes: Dec. 21, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

Should I ask grandson why we weren’t included in wedding photos?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

 
.

Entertainment

Review: ‘Five’ by Ursula Archer is intriguing

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Publisher hopes to sell books through Twitter

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Chris Colfer has multi-book deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Jerry Lee Lewis: Sustained by brief blaze of glory

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

Interim coaching jobs present challenges in bowls

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49ers squander 21-point lead in 4th straight loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

New Giants 3B McGehee eager to play back home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Eagles near elimination, fall 27-24 to Redskins

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Raiders place cornerback Brown on injured reserve

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
No. 11 Lady Vols trounce No. 7 Stanford 59-40

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Big moves bring big hope for Chicago baseball

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
US skier Nyman wins Gardena downhill for 3rd time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Vonn wins women’s World Cup downhill in France

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
This date in sports history for Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
.

Business

Your info has been hacked. Now what do you do?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
On the money: 4 ways to hold on to your cash when renting a car

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Recalls this week: Bean bag chairs, toy monkeys

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Scarecrows outnumber people in dying Japan town

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

.

Obituaries

Barbara Jean Bidstrup Braker

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Perry Michael Smetts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Luzdivina B. Banks

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Arnold Howard Evans

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Anthony Hanson Elder

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Marian Kay Zutz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Bart Ferro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dominic C. Scolaro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics