Last month, Mike Sullivan, a member of the Sangamon County Board in Illinois, delivered a religious invocation.
See if you can figure out his faith using just the following passage from his prayer. I’ll give you one guess.
Lord in Heaven during this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ, we are reminded that our country, the United States of America, was founded on Godly principles, by God fearing men and women who believed the in the Holy Bible and thereby set up a form of government for a God fearing populace.
So on this day Lord we humbly pray for the forgiveness of our sins and that our fellow countrymen will unite with us in inviting You into their hearts and souls making us one nation under God thereby allowing the God of the Universe to bless our country so it will be truly great again.
That’s not just a sectarian prayer; that’s a slam on all non-Christians in the community, as if there’s something wrong with them if they don’t fear Sullivan’s God. Two Springfield residents certainly felt that way:
“Making the assertion that there is one universal Christian God, to be followed by all and within all governmental decisions in Sangamon County doesn’t unify, it denigrates, it divides,” said Nancy Weichert, 37, a librarian at the University of Illinois Springfield who is Catholic.
She said she is not typically “one to speak out in public,” but felt the need “to speak up for the diverse beliefs of my fellow community members.”
And Janet Factor, 58, an atheist and founder of a group called Springfield Area Freethinkers, which she said has more than 350 members, said a “solemn reminder” of the serious business of the board is fine to open meetings, but said Sullivan’s prayer “went far beyond this function to claim supremacy for his own beliefs.”
Whether this is legal or not is an open question. The Greece v. Galloway case, which you’d think pertains to this issue, requires an open forum when invocations are delivered by other people. It didn’t apply to the officials themselves. All people can do right now is speak out against this sort of faith-based division.
That’s what fellow board member Tony DelGiorno did on Facebook last month, calling Sullivan’s speech “religious elitism” that was “abhorrent” to the principles in the First Amendment.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the board after Sullivan’s prayer arguing that his history was flat-out wrong and urging the more sensible board to stop the “unnecessary divisiveness” by dropping invocations altogether.
… Godly or Christian or biblical principles are fundamentally opposed to the secular principles on which this nation was founded. If pressed, it is doubtful that Mr. Sullivan could name a single, unique biblical principle that had a positive impact on the American founding.
The Framers who adopted our entirely secular Constitution knew that religious liberty does not exist without the freedom to dissent…
… we urge you to concentrate on civil matters and leave religion to the private conscience of each individual by ending the practice of hosting prayers at your meetings. The prayer practice is creating unnecessary divisiveness and should be dropped.
The Chairman of the board Andy Van Meter responded just to say they received the letter and were aware that a motion or resolution could be passed to end the invocations.
That doesn’t mean they’re going to do that. Earlier this week, Van Meter delivered his own (less sectarian) invocation, telling a local reporter that he was “quite sure” the prayers would continue even if it meant Sullivan would deliver alienating sermons in the future.
This is what happens when you elect cowards to public office. They’re too worried about offending religious sensibilities to do the right thing, even though the reasonable alternative is getting down to work instead of wasting time with prayer.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)