Editorials

Public Prayer: Prayer not needed at city meetings 2014.07.02

At the end of Morenci's planning commission meeting last week, a member noted that, come Saturday, 227 years will have passed since Ben Franklin suggested to the Continental Congress that a prayer should be given. The commissioner found it ironic that no prayer was given at the start of Morenci's meeting.

That's only the start of the irony.

On June 28, 1787, the framers of the Constitution were at an impasse in creating the roadmap for the new nation. Franklin made a speech that suggested higher powers should be allowed to assist through prayer.

To use this incident to advocate for public prayer is ironic in itself because Franklin's suggestion wasn't well accepted, according to the notes taken at the Convention. Instead, it led to much debate. Finally a decision was made to schedule a prayer service for those who wanted to attend and it took place outside the halls of the Convention. Delegates wrangled for another two weeks before reaching their "great compromise." Formal prayer never became part of the proceedings.

In a letter to an associate, Franklin noted that only three or four delegates agreed with his suggestion. Another Founding Father, Gouverneur Morris, said to delegates, "Reason tells us we are but men, and we are not to expect any particular interference from heaven in our favor."

It’s interesting to think about the prayer that Franklin himself would have led since he was not a Christian and even expressed his doubt about the divinity of Jesus.

America's cherished value of religious freedom isn't about the right of one religious group to push its practices onto others. That's the way it works in some countries around the world, but, thankfully, not in the United States. We don't need an "American Taliban" to tell us how to live.

There's a simple solution for any public servant who feels the need for prayer before discussing local issues. Take a few moments at home to seek divine guidance or pray in your vehicle before entering city hall. This will fulfill the need for prayer while keeping  someone’s religion away from a public meeting.