Prayers and the Constitution

 

Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Society of Hinduism.

News that a Hindu man would travel to Bishop to deliver the invocation before the next Bishop City Council meeting led to passage of new invocation guidelines that had been under consideration. Rajan Zed will offer a Sanskrit prayer and interpretation next Monday, August 13. The City’s new guidelines may make all invocations more general and less about specific religions.

With new invocation restrictions officially approved by the Bishop City Council, Mayor Dave Stottlemyre said he wanted to emphasize that the City is “open to invocations by all religions and all faiths.” The newly adopted guidelines, prepared by City Attorney Peter Tracy, respond to court cases dealing with the topic. Case law has indicated that any legislative prayer that proselytizes or advances one religious belief or faith or disparages another, violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Attorney Tracy came up with guidelines for Bishop which ask anyone delivering an invocation to avoid references to a particular deity, to avoid reference to any religious holiday, to avoid any reference to a particular religious sect. The entire guidelines are posted on our website.

Rajan Zed of Reno, Nevada, self-described as a Hindu Statesman, has offered invocations at numerous city council meetings in the West and before the U.S. Senate. Asked if Mr. Zed’s request to perform an invocation caused passage of the guidelines, Bishop City Administrator Keith Caldwell said, “We have been looking at this for awhile. We wanted to make sure we were doing this correctly.” Did Mr. Zed’s request prompt the official guidelines? Caldwell said, “Certainly, he moved us forward.”

One local religious leader, First United Methodist Church Pastor Kathleen Puntar of Bishop reviewed the guidelines and said she appreciates the City’s willingness to continue with invocations. Some places, she said, have discontinued them. Pastor Puntar called it a challenging, balancing act – freedom of religion and speech versus separation of church and state along with a variety of faiths.

The Pastor pointed out that the Supreme Court did not outlaw invocations, just sectarian ones. Will the City of Bishop’s new guidelines alter her invocations? Pastor Puntar said it might tweak them a little bit. “Even if I use the word God or Creator,” she said, “I know who I’m praying to.” She said in public forums, she tends to use broader references to God. The Pastor also said disparagement of other faiths is not appropriate. She said with the recent shootings at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, it is important to work against “so much hatred and violence and work for greater understanding.”

TEXT OF GUIDELINES:

City of Bishop
Guidelines for Invocations at City Meetings

The City does not intend to proselytize or advance any faith or belief. Neither the City, nor the City Council, endorses any particular religious belief or form of invocation. In accord with California court decisions,* we must advise you that sectarian prayers in City meetings are
prohibited by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Prayers are allowed, as long as “there is no indication that the prayer opportunity has been exploited to proselytize or advance any one faith, or to disparage any other, faith or belief.”
Please follow the guidelines below in delivering invocations at City meetings:

• Avoid references to a particular deity (such as Jesus Christ, Buddha, Allah, or “Our
Father in Heaven”). More generic and inclusive terms, such as “God,” “Holy One,”
and “Creator” are acceptable.
• Avoid reference to any particular religious holiday, significant date, holy day, or
religious event.
• Refrain from reading or quoting from any sectarian book, doctrine, or other material.
• Refrain from any reference to a particular religion or religious sect.
• Avoid using any other sectarian words or concepts that could reasonably be viewed as
advancing or favoring one religion over another.
• The invocation need not be a prayer. The invocation may speak to a theme of
thanksgiving, gratitude, enlightenment, guidance, etc.
• Legislative invocations involving nonsectarian requests for wisdom and solemnity, as
well as calls for divine blessings on the work of the legislative body are encouraged.
• Be creative and self-expressive while respecting the religious and political viewpoints
of others.
• Invocations should be long enough to be meaningful but brief enough that the Council
has adequate time to address the issues at the meeting.
• If a presenter fails to comply with the nonsectarian invocation guidelines, the person
may not be permitted to continue the invocation and will not be invited to return.
We thank numerous cities which graciously shared their already established guidelines
which were utilized in developing the City of Bishop’s invocation policy.
*The California Court of Appeal in Rubin v. City of Burbank 101 Cal. App. 4th 1194 ruled that California cities could begin their city council meetings with an invocation, but only a nonsectarian invocation. This case arose from invocations given at city council meetings at the City of Burbank in which it was claimed that invocations that referred to “Our Father in Heaven” and “Jesus Christ” violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court agreed
and held that sectarian invocations at city meetings were prohibited, but that nonsectarian invocations were permitted.

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68 Comments
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Jeremiah's Alter Ego
Jeremiah's Alter Ego
9 years ago

I feel us humans are not givin the ability to break down “God, Our spirit, Miracles, creation of all, beggining of life, or ending of life”. We are not allowed to grasp or understand it to the point we can write it down in books and guarantee that is the… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago

I hear what you’re saying Jeremiah, but I don’t think it is a slap in the creator’s face, just our attempt to understand God/creator, my thought, is that I feel He understands, and respects our wonder and quest to know Him more.

Deep thoughts
Deep thoughts
9 years ago

And that is about as deep as the far-right can think on civil matters today.
These types would surely be much happier living in Utah.

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago

god as a women- I think viagra and birth control can make for one good night with no worries.

God as a woman
God as a woman
9 years ago

All matriarchal religions included Ancient Egypt as matriarchal paradises, were destroyed by the patriarchal Indo-Europeans. The Hebrew Levites, because of their clearly patriarchal outlook were clearly Indo-Europeans, and included misogyny and hatred of goddess worship within Israelite society, which later developed into Christianity. The Bible was an attempt to change… Read more »

Macho, macho man
Macho, macho man
9 years ago

How about a angry-looking old man, with the scowl that would kill? This is the standard depiction. You know – the kind that would throw people into everlasting hell-fire for their transgressions – because he loves them. I think I would prefer a kinder, gentler womanly figure (in high heels… Read more »

Religious Right
Religious Right
9 years ago

You can clearly see how today’s rabid Right views their god by the angy posting above.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago

Macho and God as a woman … Your view of God as a scowling old man, who is ready to mete out punishment on all who disobey Him while claiming to love them is the type of portrait people love to paint of God. Whether it be people who seek… Read more »

Same ol, same ol
Same ol, same ol
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

Non-stop blather from the right offering nothing but “we are better Americans and closer to God than you liberals” nonsense.

“When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in flag and carrying a cross” .

– Sinclair Lewis

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago

Back to the is God a he or she debate, I just want it to be known that I have a really hard time picturing my God in hi-heels .

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

Yeah I hear ya Trouble, lol .. not my idea of my God either .. but hey … what ever blows your skirt up.

Give me you tired, your poor...
Give me you tired, your poor...
9 years ago

Dear Al (the far-righter), Methinks thou protest too much about the racism growing again in this country. Thanks Benett for the reminder of a very real problem that occured in past history and what is certainly passing for “political dominance” today. The Limbaughites are being exposed for what they are:… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago

Dr. Facts, dude .. who is protesting what? hehe I think you need to take a better look around.

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
9 years ago

Oh god…..

It's evil alright
It's evil alright
9 years ago

Perhaps the best example of “that evil that lurks in man’s heart” is the angst-ridden group that gained power in pre-World War II Germany (during another bad economic time) believing in the supremacy of a white, Christian nation. It should be of no suprise that skinhead groups and others angry,… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago

Dr. Facts, quit the freakin white supremacy … hate, angst, donkeys and elephants racism propaganda already .. geeeze it isn’t doing any good to stop the racism by throwing it in everyone’s face, you’re not being a part of the solution, only making it worst, in how you choose to… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

Dear Al,

Those who are not aware of history are bound to repeat it.
Benett

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Dear Benett, knowing of the past is one thing, but to harp on it and use it as a way to incite people is another thing. History doesn’t repeat itself. People do what they will do .. regardless of what what they know or do not know of history. People… Read more »

Ignore/Ignorance
Ignore/Ignorance
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

“it isn’t doing any good to stop the racism by throwing it in everyone’s face,” chides Big. Sorry, Big, but no problem ever gets solved by ignoring it. Today we have open hatred for a president who has black roots, the vast majority of poor and impoverished are people of… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago

I never said to ignore it .. only we don’t need to throw it out there like you have done Dr. Facts. But I will give you credit with this response .. it was less inciting although my thoughts were not a chide. I was just putting it out there… Read more »

Poisonous Patriarchy
Poisonous Patriarchy
9 years ago

What makes you so sure God is a “He” Big Al?

Minds are like parachutes – they function best when they are open.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago

Ahh I knew one like this would drop (parachute) in eventually. What makes me so sure God is a He? Hmmm …. Well what makes you feel He isn’t a He? I think it is because everyone seems to refer to Him as a He, good question though, glad you… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

The literal translation of the ancient Hebrew word for God means “He-She”.
Benett Kessler

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

Wow Big Al, you got Benett in on this one. Good job. Good luck with that.

God as a woman
God as a woman
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

Good points Big Al.
BTW – what is your REAL name?
But you lost me in the end with the standard “be watchful for false teachings” thingy.
What is true for some may not be true for others.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  God as a woman

There are some who will deceive, that is what evil does. As it is written, evil comes to kill steal and destroy. The spear head of that effort is deception. If evil can convince you God is bad, such as it does through individuals and religions, then it can then… Read more »

The Rise of Theism
The Rise of Theism
9 years ago

Big, And those “who seek to control other people” are the politicians who try to convince voters that if you don’t vote for them, God will turn His/Her back on you. This appears to be working for the sheep today who turn themselves over to this negativity praying that their… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago

Yeah Dr. Facts, I will give you that one, you’re right, except for the negativity praying part. Well yeah I guess so .. I get ya .. but all one can hope for is that a right (person) (for the poisonous patriarchy crowd) wins the fight, but which one is… Read more »

No luck
No luck
9 years ago

I see the power of prayer has failed to rid the country of freaky extremists like Glenn Beck who believes the U.S. should see the light and convert to his religion – Mormonism.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  No luck

The power of prayer has not failed .. it is the belief behind it that has failed, as is with Christianity, the Holy Spirit is not being used in a way that blesses God. With the muslin faith, it is being misused by extremists and the spirit in prayer in… Read more »

Baby Jesus
Baby Jesus
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

“..religion is not being used for good in the way that god wants it to be.” HAHA! Has it ever? Both concepts (god/religion) were invented by man as a means to control – along the same line as our current “governments.” Institutions of “authority” help no-one – they are fundamentally… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Baby Jesus

I disagree baby j … God was not invented by man, but that is my opinion, and I don’t laugh at yours, it is yours and your right to say it, I might not agree with it, and that is OK. Religion was created by man, that part you have… Read more »

Tourbillon
Tourbillon
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

“With the muslin faith, it [Christianity] is being misused by extremists and the spirit in prayer in the religion is not being used for good in the way that God wants it to be.” Al, assuming you are referring to the Muslim faith, in case you have failed to notice,… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

Tourbillon, you don’t get it. I refereed to both religions as acting badly. Do you mean to say Christians act better than muslims? Or is it you see Christians as lesser mischief makers? Or do they just go about it stealthily? Or D .. all of the above? Oh yeah… Read more »

Religion/Politics
Religion/Politics
9 years ago

Who is “closing the door on religion?” This is the sort of rabble-rousing that neoconservative people like Glenn Beck like to preach. And of course, when separation of church and state is mentioned, we get to hear, “This is what the liberal media wants!” It’s the way the extremists want… Read more »

Tourbillon
Tourbillon
9 years ago

“When fascism comes to America – it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.” How true my friend. The mayors of Chicago and Boston who recently threatened the right to do business of a company simply because its president exercised his First Amendment right of free speech… Read more »

Poli-Sci
Poli-Sci
9 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

Nice try Tourbillon,
but your party is being exposed for what they are – nasty modern fascists of America.
The country is not so stupid as to believe Beck, Limbaugh, and Fox News.

Tourbillon
Tourbillon
9 years ago
Reply to  Poli-Sci

Lessee, micromanagement of personal conduct through endemic government coercion, increasing confiscation of tax dollars to pay for all manner of mandatory “needs of das volk”, dripping malice (e.g., your own post) reflexively dished to one’s political adversaries – if I were a modern left wing progressive I should be wary… Read more »

Church & State Separation
Church & State Separation
9 years ago

Alter, I don’t think anybody wants to “close the door on religion.” But as always, mankind has an odd tendency to take things to the extreme. I.e., The Crusades were a series of military campaigns that took place during the 11th through 13th centuries in response to the Muslim Conquests.… Read more »

Alter Ego
Alter Ego
9 years ago

Your right it is catching hold again. just like Andrew Jackson in his time and Teddy Roosevelt in his time. We need one like them in our time.

Keep the separation
Keep the separation
9 years ago
Reply to  Alter Ego

There are those who believe that a man running for president is like one of the Founding Fathers (who were Deists – not Theists) erroneously believing the U.S. should be a one,Christian, and white nation. A closer examination of the man running for president’s religious ties will reveal that his… Read more »

Alter Ego
Alter Ego
9 years ago

We All could use a prayer as often one or all gives! We have free will to do as we please, but to close the door on religion is a slap in the face to a value that makes this country great (where any religion is welcome and no religion… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Alter Ego

A prayer can not be a bad thing, if at the least, it gives one a sense of hope for the situation, or the future. Even if prayer doesn’t seem to be answered, it still brings hope that it will help. Sometime an answer to a prayer comes in the… Read more »

Bemused
Bemused
9 years ago
Reply to  Alter Ego

When one relies upon it as a realistic means of resolution/change…

Change is to be feared
Change is to be feared
9 years ago

The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences defines conservatism as “an attitude of opposition to disruptive change in the social, economic, legal, religious, political, or cultural order.” The distinguishing mark of this conservatism, as indeed it is of any brand of conservatism, is the fear of change which becomes transformed… Read more »

McCarthyism is back
McCarthyism is back
9 years ago

There is a disturbing return to McCarthyism today. We have those “Americans” today who believe the country should be a white, Christian nation … period. Those who do not espouse this belief are demonized as communists aka liberals. It is no surprise that hate groups are at an all time… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago

Dr. Facts, you’re back hey dude .. where you been?

Frank
Frank
9 years ago

Why pray at all at government meetings? Keep the line between church and state distinct and you won’t have any “balancing acts”. No religion would be perceived as getting special treatment, and the business at hand would not be affected in any way.

No to Theocracy
No to Theocracy
9 years ago
Reply to  Frank

As much as some politicians would love California to become another Utah, thank God (pardon the pun) California will always be California.
Leave theocracy to Utah and the Mormons.

A different point of view
A different point of view
9 years ago

Some things should remain private.

kaat
kaat
9 years ago

….like ones sexuality!, but that is front and center these days. So indeed, “some things” should remain private….guess it just depends on what those “some things” are. Sexuality is okay to be made public and shouted from the roof tops, but faith and God is not? hmmmmmmm. funny what “offends”… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  kaat

You’re right kaat, its all about what offends and who is offended.

Baby Jesus
Baby Jesus
9 years ago
Reply to  kaat

hmmm. Maybe because sexuality is real, and something you should be proud of… and faith in “god” is an old fairytale, and attributed to violence and/or ignorance? Our “culture” and country has indeed suffered under the stress of organized religions. Maybe it’s time to wake up a bit? No offence,… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Baby Jesus

No offense taken, I don’t see faith as a fairytale, old or new. faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. OK so how can we attribute that to violence and ignorance? If you would like to try to attribute it through our culture… Read more »

kaat
kaat
9 years ago
Reply to  Baby Jesus

dear “baby jesus” (how cute): please understand that not everyone thinks or feels the same way that you do…. you may not believe in God, but many do… you may not want to hear about God, like others don’t want to hear about your sexuality….we all can choose what is… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
9 years ago
Reply to  kaat

Kaat,
Just an added note. Every religion in every country has one thing in common – they all have a version of the Golden Rule.
Benett

Bemused
Bemused
9 years ago
Reply to  kaat

“We all can choose what is real to us” ?? WRONG. Fact is fact…lies are lies…and myth is myth.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  kaat

Right on kaat

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago
Reply to  Baby Jesus

Baby Jesus- the older you get the more you realize that sex becomes mostly a fairytale . A promise to nowhere. I’ll asked my God why sometime to soon.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago

We all pray to the creator in our own way ,, if it is that we believe. A prayer of invocation can be led by anyone who believes in God or the creator what or who ever it is they see as the spiritual force in their life. If it… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

In England, before our ancestors created America, the King (government) and religion were one. There was no freedom of religion and expression. Anyone who believed differently from the Crown was persecuted. Our Constitution gives that freedom. So, when religious prayers appear in government meetings, this gives rise to concern about… Read more »

John P. Gross
John P. Gross
9 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

It’s a fascinating topic and it does make one think. Dr. Martin Luther in the 1530’s was one that believed the two should be separated. That the State have no say in the church and that the church have no say in the state. Even though Luther believed that the… Read more »

Jeremiah
Jeremiah
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

Very well said Al Grande!
I was getting ready to say the same thing, lol.

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

Big Al, i don’t always agree with you, but my respect for you just grew. Thxs.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

Thanks trouble, I really appreciate that. I try to be positive and right, and I fail at times, I know I have ripped on people at times when I get pretty adamant about something. I can say the same for you, I have come to understand and respect you more… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

Big Al- we probably learn more of a person in a forum like this , than we would over dinner. I’m looking forward to hearing your response to what the ” what makes you think God is a he” question you walked into bellow.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

Hey trouble .. you like Chileno peppers? I just canned 9 quarts tonight .. makes 15 quarts total, put away …. might enter some in the fair … Big Al’s peppers … hehe

John P. Gross
John P. Gross
9 years ago

“an invocation can be made, but without reference to a certain deity” …Then why pray or maybe it would be more politically correct to say, “Why invocate”?