Michigan prayer fight shows why legislature should stop invocations

A foofaraw in the Michigan Legislature over prayer epitomizes why our statehouses and other governmental bodies should finally drop the archaic ritual of opening with prayer. 

Not only are legislators charged solely with secular and civil duties — terrestrial not celestial duties, one must emphasize — but nothing is more divisive in government than religion.

Michigan state Sen. Lana Theis recently intoned a prayer to open a session that cast aspersions on public schools for affirming gender identity and teaching critical race theory. In an almost QAnonesque manner, she pontificated:

Dear Lord, across the country we’re seeing in the news that our children are under attack. That there are forces that desire things for them other than what their parents would have them see and hear and know, . . .

Dear Lord, I pray for your guidance in this chamber, to protect the most vulnerable among us. Help us to do your will at every step.

At least three legislators, to their credit, walked out in protest during the tirade. After state Sen. Mallory McMorrow tweeted a criticism of the prayer, Theis retaliated, attacking her in a fundraising appeal that called her a liberal social media “troll” who wants to “groom” and “sexualize kindergarteners” and who wishes to teach “that 8-year-olds are responsible for slavery.”

McMorrow responded on April 19 with a five-minute floor speech that has garnered tremendous attention, saying:

“I am a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom who knows that the very notion that learning about slavery or redlining or systemic racism somehow means that children are being taught to feel bad or hate themselves because they are white is absolute nonsense.” 

She added: “No child alive today is responsible for slavery. No one in this room is responsible for slavery. But each and every single one of us bears responsibility for writing the next chapter of history … we are not responsible for the past. We also cannot change the past. We can’t pretend that it didn’t happen, or deny people their very right to exist.” 

McMorrow told the Washington Post, “There is a difference between politics and outright hate. I think people are frustrated that elected officials haven’t done enough to call that out, that maybe Democrats are afraid of talking about religion and faith openly and honestly and calling hate what it is. I think we have to.”

Yes, much of what passes for religion and faith is hateful in this era. There is a difference between religion and outright hate, but in this instance, Theis is hating in the name of religion, using the unconstitutional ritual of government prayer to promote her hateful brand of Christianity. She was able to use this pandering ritual as a free pass to promote her agenda. And she’s by no means the first legislator or chaplain to do so.
“There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed,” a wise Wisconsin State Supreme Court justice wrote in a concurring opinion against bible reading in our public schools. (Weiss v. District Board, 1890)

Extremist religion is entering our civil affairs and it is indeed threatening to destroy our government. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling on the Michigan leadership and legislature to drop the archaic, divisive and coercive practice. Let Michigan legislators pray (and hate) on their own dime and time.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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