A challenge over prayer
July 27, 2010
N.C. House Speaker Joe Hackney verbally banned the word “Jesus” as supposedly illegal speech during public prayers offered by volunteer pastors before the state legislature. Specifically, Ron Baity said, “I got fired,” after Hackney terminated his services because the pastor’s prayer ended “in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
As a former Navy chaplain, I’ve led petition campaigns and helped get such “Jesus-bans” reversed in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Oregon, Oklahoma, California, Virginia, and for military chaplains. Now in one day, we got 1,000 petition-signers to N.C. legislators, which I’m faxing to all 120 representatives and 50 senators; and up to 170,000 fax petitions are flooding Raleigh. Articles 13 and 14 of the N.C. Constitution protect citizens’ “inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.” The Fourth Circuit specifically authorized rotating diverse prayers, including “Jesus.” As Justice O’Connor wrote in Turner v. Fredericksburg: “The Establishment Clause does not absolutely dictate the form of legislative prayer. In Marsh, the legislature employed a single chaplain . the legislature in Simpson allowed a diverse group . to give prayers at open meetings. Both varieties of legislative prayer were found constitutional.”
Will the people of North Carolina rise up to defend free speech, free religious expression, and stop Hackney from censoring prayer content? Or can one man really silence the masses and ban Jesus Christ?
Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt Colorado Springs, Colo.
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