Guest edit was un-American
November 13, 2013 12:04 AM | 1158 views | 12 12 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEAR EDITOR:

The Augusta Chronicle guest editorial (“Unite, Not Divide”) reprinted in Tuesday’s Marietta Daily Journal is contradictory, un-American, hypocritical and anti-freedom, but other than that. How so?

Contradictory? The editorial touts the need to be “inclusive,” yet flagrantly omit the rights of atheists and many others who don’t want bland, superficial public prayers.

Un-American? The American way, since the Constitution and First Amendment were passed, has always been to restrain governments in favor of individuals.

Hypocritical? Prayers like those in Greece, N.Y., seem likely to be given “that they may be seen of men,” as Jesus allegedly said in Matthew, Chapter 6.

Anti-freedom? The editorial explicitly calls for protecting “the right of local government,” but everyone who knows his history knows that individuals must have the rights protected, not governments.

What can be done to protect the rights of those individuals who want to pray before a governmental meeting? The First Amendment (and Georgia’s Constitution, Paragraph VII, Section II, Article I) solve that problem by protecting the rights of all citizens — and officials — to pray, as individuals, whenever and however they wish.

Ed Buckner

Treasurer and former president

American Atheists
Comments
(12)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
EM Buckner
|
December 02, 2013
Well argued (both comments), Red Westside. --Ed B.
Red Westside
|
December 01, 2013
There is a long history of application of the Bill of Rights (including the 1st Amendment)to state and local government by the US Supreme Court. The states are subject to it via the Due Process, Privileges and Immunities, and the Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, which each state has ratified. It is the law. In other words: You have low information because those are the provisions in the US Constitution that constrain state and local governments from establishing religion, such as official prayers.

You might want to read: ENGEL v. VITALE, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), which dealt with this issue.

"it is no part of the official business of government to compose official prayers for any group of American people to recite as part of a religious program carried out by the Government."



Ms Stemm, what will you do when the city decides to start their meetings with a Muslim inspired prayer? Are you going to sit there and not pay attention?

"How does a prayer at the beginning of City council, or a school board meeting violate any of your rights? You have the right not to pay attention, or to think sabout anything you desir. Beyond that you have no right to stop the duly eleted body of thr government from entering into public prayer."

Everyone has the right to not have someone else's religion in their face at purely government functions. Is that so hard to understand? You want a prayer, say it to yourself and I will say one to myself. You won't have to listen to mine if I don't have to listen to yours. Fair enough?



EM Buckner
|
December 02, 2013
Bravo, Red Westside. Your comments are apt and well argued.
EM Buckner
|
November 17, 2013
Ms. Stemm--and many others, I know--is blinded by her assumption that her religion is the only possible correct choice. But she--and the others--would quickly change their tunes if what we were discussing was the right of a group of political officials to allow for group declarations, before a legislation session of any kind, that "There is no god and those who think otherwise are mistaken but welcome here as citizens." OR "There is no god but Allah and those who believe otherwise are mistaken but we will tolerate them nonetheless." Interestingly, Ms. Stemm, those who have been empowered to interpret the Constitution do not interpret it as you do. But I'm arguing for a position that makes philosophical sense, for wisdom and justice--not just for my narrow rights vs. yours. The American way really is "In Freedom We Trust," Ms. Stemm. Not your way, not my way, but freedom.
Brian Westley
|
November 17, 2013
Ed Buckner is quite correct; the government does not have rights, only powers, and the first amendment restricts the power of government. All of you clamoring for governmental prayers have no idea what religious freedom is.
Guido Sarducci
|
November 18, 2013
You are wrong, sir. The first amendment restricts the power of the United States Congress, enjoining them not to to "make a law establishing a religion" (show me where that has been done), or "make a law restricting the free exercise thereof." They violated that when they passed the law to ban public prayer in school. It places no restrictions on any other government agency, be it federal, state or local.

Yes, sir. We do know what religious freedom is. It is freedom to pray or not to pray, worship or not worship as you choozse, in the manner you choose and with whom you choose, in the church of your choice, or in no church. If you do not understand the fundamental difference, then you, sir, have no business being in this discussion.
anonymous
|
November 14, 2013
I think Buckner is un-American. He wants to stop people from expressing their personal beliefs.
on balance
|
November 14, 2013
Atheists, among a few other groups, are about denying freedom to the majority. If atheists wish to have a session at school, at town meetings or wherever, most of us do not object.

I do not try to restrict others freedoms, why do they try to restrict mine? What harmful thing is it to pray?
Guido Sarducci
|
November 14, 2013
That same constitution which protects your right not to pray, also protects the rights of any group, at any time, in any place, to participate in group prayer. That certainly does not constitute congress

violating any provisions of the Bill of Rights. State or local governmental agencies cannot be in violation of the Bill of Rights and the so-called "separation clause", which is directed at Congress only, and Congress cannot pass state or local laws.
EM Buckner
|
November 14, 2013
The restrictions are on government agencies, not on individuals. You have complete freedom to pray when you wish, and no one is attempting to deprive you of that. What you do not--and should not--have is the freedom to pretend that our government can make religious decisions for me. It cannot. If a group wants to get together and pray before a governmental assembly, the group can do so and can invite anyone they wish to participate. But they cannot pretend that they have the freedom to require others to do so. Freedom is for everyone, not just for those who agree with you,Guido, on balance, and anonymous (no one brave enough to sign their real names, apparently? Regards, Ed B.
Nettie Helen Stemm
|
November 17, 2013
Mr. Buckner, in spite of the fact that you try to dilute the truth by questioning the courage of the truth speakers, you are totally mistaken.

The only restrictions contained in the so-called "separation clause", are the two restrictions put on Congress. There were no restrictions placed on state or local governments, their agencies or leaders. There were no restrictions put on any other branch of the government, just Congress. Further, the restrictions placed on Congress are very specific and plainly spelled out. Both would require Congress to pass a law, in order to be in violation.

All the BS about what the founding fathers "meant" is totally irrelevant. We only have what they actually put into writing.

To claim that any provision of the Constitution prohibits public prayer by agencies of any government is a ludicrous and lame attempt at justifying your whining, and that of other atheists who are so insecure in their beliefs that they feel compelled to force them onto others. Sadly, you are the only atheists who get any attention. I number several atheists, as well as a number of agnostics, among my friends. They are all content to allow me my beliefs, as I am content to allow them theirs, Neither of us feel the need to try to convert the other, or to restrict their rights. It is too bad the radical element of the atheist population must give the rest of them such a bad name.

How does a prayer at the beginning of City council, or a school board meeting violate any of your rights? You have the right not to pay attention, or to think sabout anything you desir. Beyond that you have no right to stop the duly eleted body of thr government from entering into public prayer.

Granted if they were forcing you to repeat The Lord's Prayer, I would be the first to say they were violating your civil rights. But, since their prayer places no requirments on you, your rights are intact.
Red Westside
|
December 01, 2013
"That same constitution which protects your right not to pray, also protects the rights of any group, at any time, in any place, to participate in group prayer."

I challenge you to go to I-75 and start praying right now. Stand in the middle. If you don't get run down, you will be arrested. It is illegal to be a pedestrian on an interstate highway. You can't pray in a closed state or Federal park, nor on someone else's land/property without permission. Just like with any right, there are generally going to be time, place and manner restrictions. You can't just run out on a football field and pray while a game is in progress or have to large a group in a city without a permit. My point is that you do not have many absolute rights to religion or anything else.

"That certainly does not constitute congress

violating any provisions of the Bill of Rights. State or local governmental agencies cannot be in violation of the Bill of Rights and the so-called "separation clause", which is directed at Congress only,"

Originally, yes. BUT, by 1868 or so, all the states ratified the 14th amendment, especially the first paragraph. Ultimately, it became a game changer in Constitutional law and it makes your argument moot. Didn't you ever read/hear about it? There is a huge body of law about this very topic. Didn't you and Ms. Stemm learn this in high school?

"and Congress cannot pass state or local laws."

Except that under the 14th Amendment, paragraph 5, Congress can enforce the provisions of the 14th Amendment. And you can pass all the state and local laws you want. They all have to undergo review for constitutionality if challenged.

*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides