Great Plains Chapter - Americans United For Separation of Church and State

Obama Admin's Amicus Brief Supports Entanglement

Take Action On: Monday, August 12, 2013

The Obama administration has filed an amicus brief that supports sectarian government prayer in the Supreme Court case Town of Greece v. Galloway. Please write or call the White House to voice your concern. Below is Great Plains Chapter President Vickie Stangl's letter:

August 12th, 2013

AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Dear President Obama:

Your administration's defense of prayers before government meetings in an amicus brief in the court case Town of Greece v. Galloway was shocking.

It is the federal government's task and your duty as the president of the United States to uphold the separation of church and state. The majority of prayers before government meetings are largely Christian in nature and this elevates Christianity above all beliefs and gives the appearance that our government is a Christian government.

Furthermore, prayers by their very nature are a form of proselytizing since prayers promote a belief in a God and compel people to adopt this belief. Thus, invocations before governmental bodies have become convenient tools in promoting religious beliefs in the public square under the guise of religious freedom. And, prayers most certainly do denigrate non-believers at government meetings by creating an atmosphere that non-believers are outsiders.

No American citizen should expect to go before a government body and be told it's time to pray. This smacks of a religious state which James Madison, the Father of our Constitution, would have found repugnant. Unfortunately, all across this nation, citizens are being subjected to the proselytizing actions of their public officials, who are most adamant of their right to promote their faith during government meetings.

Public officials certainly understand they are using the power of their office to proselytize their beliefs before a captive audience. I attended a Wichita, Kansas City Council Meeting in 2010 and requested council members to refrain from sectarian invocations. I never commanded council members to give up their faith or stop praying privately before council meetings. Nevertheless, I was given a lecture on how I was not going to dictate to council members how to start their day. If they wanted to start the day thanking their heavenly father on the public dime, then they were going to do so.

Government meetings can also be intimidating for many people. Those who are non-religious, or do not agree with the religious sentiments being expressed, are placed in an awkward position. They know they must bow their heads and remain silent since they have interests at stake. This kind of religious coercion is most certainly not in keeping with the spirit of religious freedom.

It is imperative that our government remain free of religious entanglements. All across the globe we see the daily reminders of what occurs when religion is given a favored status within the government or when it dictates the policies of the nation while suppressing any idea that conflicts with its dogma.

Freedom of conscience applies to every citizen in America, including those Americans who do not follow a religion or have a religious belief system. Citizens should be free from the religious fellowship of prayer during government meetings since governing is about the day to day operations of the state and not a time for worship.

Yes, there is a long history of public officials and governmental bodies in America violating and ignoring the separation of church and state principle. Legal precedent based upon a history of American officials ignoring and violating the law, is not a good argument to use before the Supreme Court. Thankfully, there have been a few brave leaders, such as President Kennedy, who fought against church/state collusion, but today the number of government officials upholding church/state separation is dismal.

In a climate of rising religious extremism in America and around the globe, your support of prayers before government meetings is ominous. Today, more than ever, we need a president to stand up for our secular government in order to ensure the stability and political health of our nation and the global community.

In closing, prayer is the most religious action a person can make. If our government allows prayer before meetings, it is placing its stamp of approval on faith over all other ideas or philosophies, and turning the government into one big recruitment arm for religion. This is exactly what the establishment clause forbids.

It is regrettable that as the chief executive officer of the nation, you have decided to defy the wise principle of church/state separation, and jump into the ring of endorsing religion within government bodies.

Please preserve this great secular state of America by reversing your decision and protecting the freedom of conscience for all.

 

Respectfully,

Vickie Sandell Stangl
President, Great Plains Chapter of AU
1401 E. Juniper Crest Ct.
Andover, KS 67002