Mayor Robb made it a point to mention that the Supreme Court ruled that prayer at commission meetings is “perfectly legitimate”.
The court decided 5-4 that opening a meeting with prayer is legal. However, legal does not mean right; does not mean that many people who have to attend meetings are not offended. Legal does not mean MUST, it means MAY. I have long held that if any reflection is needed it should be done in a moment of silence which does not rub people’s noses in another’s religion. That is why you will see me sitting during invocations at commission meetings.
When this was suggested some years back by a Jewish resident, and brought up by Commissioner Militello, Jean Robb took offense and brought the head priest of St. Ambrose Church to voice disapproval. All well and good, they have every right to state their opinion.
However, when Fr. Dalton then accosted Commissioner Militello and shook his finger in her face and said that he would personally make sure she didn’t get reelected, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe a priest would do such a nasty thing.
He indeed carried out his threat and convinced many of his District 1 parishioners not to vote for her. In doing so I think he risked losing his church’s non-profit status as he is not allowed to do any politicking in church.
What was most unbelievable is that all she did was respond to a resident by suggesting a moment of silence. Was Dalton’s overreaction the Christian thing to do? Surely not! Certainly not in the Methodist Church in which I was raised. We were taught to respect others' opinions.
A retired Montana Supreme Court Judge says it better than I could, below is an excerpt from his article.
An American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
Web Site Guest Post
I Will Stand No Longer for Prayer
May 8, 2014by James C. Nelson, Justice, Montana Supreme Court (Retired)
"…I cannot not accept the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 5, decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. In that case the Court held that the town opening its official board meetings with a Christian prayer offered by members of the clergy does not violate the First Amendment and does not discriminate against minority faiths or coerce participation with non-adherents.
The Court’s decision is flat wrong. It respects neither the history underpinning the adoption of the religion clauses, the wall of separation, nor the reality that “We the People” are a pluralistic and diverse society encompassing all degrees of sectarian believers, agnostics and atheists.
Nonetheless, that decision is now the law of the land—created from whole cloth and judicially blessed by the right wing Christian majority of our Nation’s highest Court. And, that puts me in a box.
For many years I have stood during opening prayers in public meetings of federal, state and local government. I did so out of a sense of respect for the beliefs of others and for decorum – notwithstanding my personal dis-belief in the prayer and the god prayed-to. But, while respect can be freely given, it cannot be compelled. And, thus, The Town of Greece leaves me but one option.
I will stand no longer for prayer! I will not, as the Supreme Court suggests, leave the room during the invocation. Rather, I will sit during the prayer in the meeting room in which I am constitutionally entitled to assemble.
I will not be bullied nor will I be shamed into standing. After all, it is not I who is violating the constitutional separation of church and state. I cannot and will not be compelled to participate in any fashion in government sponsored prayer.
To be clear, my problem is not with those who profess and practice belief in one form of religious doctrine or another. That fundamental right is guaranteed by the First Amendment. Rather, my issue is with public officials who insist on foisting their personal religious beliefs – through prayers in particular – on persons, like me and on others who do not believe, at public meetings.
Stated another way, I take issue with government officers who insist on mixing their official duties with religious prayers, pontifications, Bible readings, and calls upon their God, before, during or at the end official public meetings.
Yet, the Supreme Court in The Town of Greece appears to take the position that this sort of Church/State incest is just part of good ole’ American government – no harm, no foul. Well, the Court is wrong. It is harmful to the First Amendment rights of non-believers and there is, accordingly, a foul of Constitutional magnitude.
Any legal rational that facilitates some public officers’ seemingly incessant attempts to force their religion down the unwilling throats of non-believers as part of government meetings undisputedly violates the First Amendment. And if that truth offends the religious sensibilities of the fundamentalist Christian jurists doing the facilitating, then so be it. Indeed, thanks to the Roberts five and The Town of Greece, everyone can now be offended – officially and as a matter of law.
There are many “ocracys” that the framers of our Constitution tried to prevent. Chief among them was theocracy. For, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, those who torment us with their religious beliefs will do so without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
And now, sadly, they will also do so officially, with the divine sanction of the Supreme Court of the United States.
We the People may be stuck with the Court’s newest law; but, as for me. . . I will stand no longer for prayer."