Hartford council urged: Drop prayers altogether

The Hartford [Conn.] Common Council, which has announced its intention to host Muslim prayers during its September meetings, has been contacted by the national Freedom From Religion Foundation asking it to drop city council prayers altogether.

"The rancor, bigotry, even threats attending the Common Council’s decision to schedule an imam to give an invocation is a lesson in the divisiveness of injecting religion into government," wrote Foundation Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Government prayer is unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive."

The Foundation proposed that the council adopt a resolution that "The council will take no official position on matters of religion and will refrain from hosting official prayers during or as part of government business."

The Foundation noted that Council Minority Leader Luis Cotto has said, “99% of the prayers are Christian-based.” The Foundation said the history of state/church entanglement between the Common Council and Christianity "is partly to blame for the intolerant views" expressed by opponents of the Muslim prayers.

"When a government body consistently crosses the line, misusing its civil powers to promote one religion over another and religion over nonreligion, it creates a climate of intolerance, privileging those in the majority religion. As Justice O’Connor wrote: 'government cannot endorse the religious practices and beliefs of some citizens without sending a clear message to nonadherents that they are outsiders or less than full members of the political community.' ”

The Foundation pointed out that the practice of hosting "99% Christian-based" prayer is in violation of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court approving government prayer under very narrow exceptions, requiring, for example, that prayers must be nondenominational.

"The controversy regarding the council’s invocation practice can be resolved expediently by removing the divisive prayers from official council business."

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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