We now have Exhibit B this week in the case of why we need to eliminate invocations at government meetings.
In Georgia, rather than giving an uplifting and inspirational speech to open the day in the State House, Doyle Kelley told the elected officials that anyone who wasn’t Christian would be tortured for all eternity.
Kelley was chosen to speak by his Republican son, State Rep. Trey Kelley. The father spent nearly 10 minutes delivering a sermon that included a section about why so many Georgians were “lost.” His answer? They didn’t accept his personal brand of make-believe.
Here’s the invocation at the relevant bit (though everything before it was also sermon-esque):
… People always ask me, “Why is there so many lost people in the state of Georgia?”
The statistics came out that there’s 70% of the people in the state of Georgia that are lost. That are lost. 70%. There’s over 10 million people in the state of Georgia. That means there’s 7 million people lost.
And you want to hear it in Baptist terms? 7 million people that are lost are dying and on their way to Hell. That’s what that means.
That wasn’t an invocation. That was a threat.
And then he asked the entire body if every action they took was “done in the name of Jesus Christ,” even though nothing they do while on the clock should be to advance their religion.
It’s irrelevant that many of those officials likely share his views. The point is nobody should be imploring those elected officials to be guided by his personal God instead of evidence and the law, and the line about Hell was a direct slap in the fact to anyone who isn’t a Christian. If a Muslim or atheist gave a similar invocation, you know what the backlash would look like.
At least one Democrat did something about it.
[Democratic State Rep. Josh McLaurin] wrote a letter to House Speaker David Ralston’s legal counsel seeking the office’s policies. He said he wanted to “ensure that legislative prayer in our chamber is always consistent with the First Amendment.”
… McLaurin, a Yale-trained attorney who won a Sandy Springs-based district in November, said he had little choice but to take action.
“It’s one thing for legislative session to feel like a church service,” he said. “It’s another thing for the Georgia House to allow blatantly unconstitutional establishment of religion.”
Clearly, that won’t accomplish anything. But what else can he do? There’s not much anyone can do to oppose this practice when conservative Christians are well aware that “invocation” is just a euphemism for “Christian prayer.”
The sad thing is that this type of invocation isn’t illegal because invocations aren’t illegal. The only thing the Supreme Court said about this in the Greece case (and I’m paraphrasing) was that invocations that consistently functioned as fire-and-brimstone sermons would be crossing the line:
… Prayer that is solemn and respectful in tone, that invites lawmakers to reflect upon shared ideals and common ends before they embark on the fractious business of governing, serves that legitimate function. If the course and practice over time shows that the invocations denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion, many present may consider the prayer to fall short of the desire to elevate the purpose of the occasion and to unite lawmakers in their common effort.
What did State Rep. Trey Kelley have to say about his dad’s lengthy Jesus-fueled rant?
Just as you’d expect, nothing of substance.
Kelley said his father, who has acted as Chaplain of the Day in years’ past for the State House, delivered a long prayer on “having a healthy heart for Jesus” and that overall he received praise and well-wishes from both sides of the political divide in the chamber during the Tuesday morning session.
“It was a great day for me and my family,” Trey Kelley said.
Of course it was. They got away with something non-Christians would never be allowed to do — and that most of us would never dream of doing because we’re not assholes-by-default trying to push our personal religious beliefs through the government. That’s a uniquely Christian problem.
If Christians can’t control what’s being said by their own people, they should get rid of the useless practice. There’s no purpose to the practice if these guest speakers are using the opportunity to condemn non-Christians to Hell. This invocation, by the way, was Doyle Kelley’s fifth in that very chamber.
Earlier this week, another Christian legislator, Pennsylvania State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz used her invocation to preach the gospel on the same day that the state’s first Muslim lawmaker was getting sworn in. Borowicz didn’t apologize either. She just assumes everyone should respect her faith in a way she refused to do to her new colleague.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)