Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a Supreme Court decision this week — which found explicitly sectarian prayers at public meetings constitutional — that those who are put off by such religious invocations are free to ignore them.
They are also free to write letters to The Times disagreeing with him, as dozens did.
Generally, Times readers tend to be a religiously tolerant bunch, but most draw the line when government appears to endorse a religious faith. This time, a decisive majority of readers sided with the dissenting justices. Here are some of their letters.
-- Paul Thornton, letters editor
Jim Krause of Torrance worries about feelings of distrust in government by religious minorities:
"In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. The commission will now hear from the applicant to construct a mosque."
All around the country, city councils and planning commissions will be ruling on permits from religious organizations. Every denial, every onerous and expensive condition of approval by the Christian officials, will lead to resentment among religious minorities in the community, and to lawsuits that cities will often lose.
Why is it not sufficient to salute the flag and call for a moment of silent prayer?
Los Angeles resident Roz Levine shares what it is like for a non-Christian to sit through a Christian prayer:
Kennedy suggested that adults could simply ignore explicitly sectarian prayers.
I tried to do that for years when an organization I belonged to had prayers in the name of Jesus Christ before its holiday luncheons. I'd sit there and squirm, wanting to leave my seat. But I didn't want to appear rude or deal with the ramifications of that action.
I very much fear what this ruling by our Supreme Court portends for the millions of us in this country who do not pray in the name of Jesus Christ.
Garry Cappleman of San Bernardino says prayers reflect our diversity:
We are a diverse nation, but we must learn to live with and respect those differences. Prohibiting any prayer at government meetings is intolerance masquerading as tolerance.
My own family has Jews, Lutherans, Baptists, non-denominational Christians, agnostics and atheists. I am a Catholic priest, and I celebrate the love in all of them and respect their traditions.
Rancho Mirage resident Larry Shapiro throws the Bible at lawmakers:
The U.S. government supported prayer in public meetings because of the tradition of praying to bless the deliberations in Congress. Considering the attack on welfare recipients by American politicians, perhaps the daily prayer should include, "He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his maker" (Proverbs 14:20).