Marion County, Fla., commissioners are now considering their response to an Americans United for the Separation of Church and State complaint that their prayers opening commission meetings are too Christian.
According to a report in the Star-Banner of Ocala, Fla., Americans United said it was acting on a complaint from an unidentified source and that it had reviewed video from eight regular commission sessions since the beginning of the year. They claimed that on five occasions the name of Jesus Christ was specifically mentioned during the opening prayer. It was the mentioning of the name of Jesus Christ to which the legal group was protesting.
The group’s lawyer, Ian Smith, requested that the board of commissioners bring its “prayer practice” into compliance by using a “nonsectarian” invocation or by abandoning the practice of prayer altogether.
According to the Star-Banner, Smith suggested that the board switch to a more inclusive moment of silence, make the prayers nonsectarian or invite members of the community and “prayer-givers” from varying faiths to present the invocations.
“The Commission’s prayer practice,” Smith said, “unconstitutionally affiliates the county with Christianity.”
But Pastor Carl Gallups, author of the Amazon No. 1 Bestseller “The Magic Man in the Sky: Effectively Defending the Christian Faith,” says the United States is affiliated with Christianity, a fact he says even Americans United could embrace if they understood its significance.
“Here is a classic example of the collision of two worldviews,” Gallups told WND. “I have an entire chapter in my book devoted to this phenomenon. The chapter is titled, ‘When Two Worlds Collide.’ The collision is the clash between the completely unique and distinctive message of the Christian faith with the secular worldview that there is no God. Or, conversely, it is a clash with the universalism message that ‘all religious views hold equal value and consideration.’”
“When was the last time that you heard of a lawsuit in America dealing with a public prayer that was ‘too Muslim’ or ‘too Hindu’ or ‘too secular in nature?’” asked Gallups.
Gallups continued, “There is such an emphasis on political correctness in our culture that I am afraid we have gone mad in our assessment of what is reality. The truth is that our nation has its definitive and indisputable roots in the Judeo-Christian heritage. We were not founded upon the principles of atheism, or Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or secularism. We were founded as a constitutional republic with a distinctly Christian underpinning.
“From the earliest history of our nation,” Gallups continued, “our Founding Fathers opened meetings, conventions and Congress with distinctly Christian prayers. Often what made these prayers distinctly Christian was that they were made in the name of Jesus Christ. The Constitution itself ends with the words ‘In The Year of our Lord.’ Those words, in that period of time, in the early United States of America, were indisputably referring to ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Every one of the signers of the Constitution penned their names under that declaration.”
Gallups further analyzed the situation, “If I were in a Muslim nation, for example, I would expect to hear a prayer in the name of Allah. That would make perfect sense. However, that Muslim nation would base its laws and decisions strictly upon the principles of the Muslim faith. But what makes America so unique is this startling fact, which so many of our citizens seem to have forgotten: Because we were conceived upon a Christian foundation, we devised a thing called the First Amendment.”
Gallups went on to say, “It is the presence of this First Amendment that ensures that people of all faiths, or no faith at all, have the freedom to practice their beliefs without fear of reprisal. Secondly, the First Amendment also assures that even if a public or governmental meeting is opened in the name of Jesus (reflecting our history and heritage) that no distinctly religious consideration shall come into play in that governmental body’s decision. This is a delicate balance, a precious balance, a unique balance and a distinctly American balance.
“If people of other faiths truly understood the original intent of our Founding Fathers and the First Amendment,” Gallups continued, you would think that they would actually celebrate our nations’ Christian heritage and welcome an opening prayer that had a Christian ‘flavor’ to it. But, such is not the case in modern America. And thus, the two worlds continue to collide. It is my prayer that Americans will wake up to their unique heritage and celebrate it – regardless of their faith affiliation. If we loose this uniqueness, we have lost America.”
Gallups’ discussion of the Marion County dilemma, originally broadcast on his northwest Florida WEBY-AM Radio program can be heard below: