Let Us Prey by Catherine Fahringer (August 2000)

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the let’s-pray-in-public contingent now that the Supreme Court has ruled that: “The religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when the state affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer.” No more prayers over loudspeakers at football games. This will be viewed as the complete moral collapse of this country.

I’m not sure when this passionate desire to demonstrate religious practices in public began, but I do believe that it has accelerated in my lifetime, probably due to more sophisticated sound systems. It’s as if those praying want to make up in volume what is missing in their often clumsy devotional words. Oddly enough, in the Bible Jesus himself gives instructions as to how and where to pray–in Matthew 6: 5-8. When I tell this to those who support public prayer fanatically, the retort is always, “Oh, you’ve taken that out of context!” Excuse me, those verses are from the sermon on the mount, and the context of that sermon is the book of Matthew in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. So what’s to argue? These avid pray-ers have no thought above showing off their piety.

They will say, “But the majority of Americans is Christian.” So? This out-of-context statement is unfathomable to me. They’ve never read any American history? Are unaware of the content of the Bill of Rights? What prayer advocates never think of is that not even all Christians like to engage in (or listen to) public prayer. As for those of other religions, or none, their attitude seems to be, why bother with the minority? I thought consideration of others was a Christian virtue, but obviously I am incorrect. Minorities are taxpayers too. The public square belongs to all of us. This is the United States, is it not? Obviously, in the public square, which means any tax-supported area, it would be kind and thoughtful to be neutral in the matter of religion. Pretend you are aware that there are nudists or naturists (a term I think they prefer) who are the majority of this country’s population. Suppose you are not one of them, but that you have an open mind regarding personal beliefs and tastes.

Off to the public square you go for a graduation ceremony or football game. Settled in for a sports event, you are startled to hear over the public address system an announcement: “Let us now disrobe.” The non-naturist is forced to watch; she is trapped. Needless to say, she is embarrassed and uncomfortable. She doesn’t have anything against these people, but why is she forced to witness them engaging in what is, to them, normal behavior as well as their absolute right as the majority? To add to her bewilderment is the fact that she knows these people have tax-exempt facilities and private homes in which to practice their beliefs. Do try to keep these thoughts in mind the next time you grab a microphone and start exhorting the crowd to display its spiritual nudity.

–Amen! The writer is a Foundation activist and officer from Texas.

Freedom From Religion Foundation