A complaint was lodged by atheist Dan L. Smith that a prayer that concludes with “in Jesus name” or the use of “Christ” is unconstitutional.
“Smith has emailed council members for years, saying that people of other faiths or no faith shouldn’t have to endure a Christian prayer at a government meeting.”
Because of a threat of a legal suit by Smith, the religious invocations at Longview City Council meetings have been suspended. I offer a way (see below) to beat people like Smith at their own game by using the Constitution. The best defense is a good offense.
The First Amendment does not apply to city council meetings since it only restricts “Congress” from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . .” One of the first orders of business of the first Congress was to appoint chaplains. Bishop Samuel Provost and Reverend William Linn became paid chaplains of the Senate and House. Since then, both the Senate and the House have continued regularly to open their sessions with prayer. So how is it constitutional to have chaplains where prayers are offered for the House and Senate and not for a city council meeting?
Judge James Harvie Wilkinson III in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals argued that “legislative invocations offered in Jesus’ name are inherently ‘sectarian’ and thus should be censored lest they make some attendees feel ‘uncomfortable, unwelcome and unwilling to participate in … public affairs.’” But are they unconstitutional? If history is any guide, they are not.
The above arguments are lost on today’s courts and the people who write news stories on this topic. But there’s a way to fight this battle without having to resort to a long drawn out and expensive court fight. The simple solution is for any Christian who is called on to open a meeting with prayer to end it with these simple words:
“We make this prayer in the Year of our Lord Jesus Christ 2013.”
If people object, pull out a copy of the Constitution and show them that you are only following what the Constitution itself acknowledges. “The Year of our Lord” is part of the Constitution. You can read it just above George Washington’s signature. This is an obvious reference to Jesus because of the use of “Lord” and the dating from the supposed time of Jesus’ birth which is also part of the Constitution: “one thousand, seven hundred and eighty seven.”
This tactic would mute the claim that the United States Government can’t favor Christianity since Jesus is the centerpiece of Christianity, and the Constitution acknowledges this by its recognition of Anno Domini, A.D., “the year of our Lord.” It’s a logical step to reason that if the Constitution makes a reference to Jesus, even if indirectly, then how is it possible that using Jesus’ name at a government meeting, which claims to follow the Constitution, is unconstitutional?
When John Hancock was Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he issued “A Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving” in 1791 with no protestation from the courts:
“In consideration of the many undeserved Blessings conferred upon us by GOD, the Father of all Mercies; it becomes us not only in our private and usual devotion, to express our obligations to Him, as well as our dependence upon Him; but also specially to set a part a Day to be employed for this great and important Purpose. . . . And above all, not only to continue to us the enjoyment of our civil Rights and Liberties; but the great and most important Blessing, the Gospel of Jesus Christ: . . . . that all may bow to the Scepter of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, and the whole Earth be filled with his Glory.”
Above Hancock’s signature, the following is found: “Given at the Council-Chamber, in Boston, the fifth Day of October, in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-One, and in the sixteenth Year of the Independence of the United States of America.”
In 1807, Thomas Jefferson signed a federal passport that allowed the ship Hershel to proceed on its Journey to London and dated the letter September 24, 1807 “in the year of our Lord Christ.”
If Jesus is good enough for the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, and other official United States documents, then I don’t see why it’s not good for the Longview City Council.