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Why can’t believers just pray quietly to themselves at government meetings?

Why can’t believers just pray quietly to themselves at government meetings?
Christian activists pray in front of the Supreme Court after the justices ruled in favor of the Town of Greece, N.Y., in a public prayer case on May 5, 2014. (Carolyn Kaster / AP)

To the editor: A letter writer recommended that someone just hum quietly or look at a smartphone during a prayer at a public meeting if one does not wish to listen to a prayer.

I have been to numerous public meetings, and it would be disrespectful to follow these recommendations in the total silence that allows a prayer to be offered. I always listen to prayers to learn from the speaker or to reflect in a mindful way even if I do not adhere to the speaker’s religious beliefs.

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However, I would like to propose an alternative: Why don’t the faithful pray quietly to themselves while the public meeting proceeds without a public prayer? As the letter writer asks, “So what is the problem?”

Susan Perlson, Brea

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To the editor: Despite being a nontheistic humanist, I liked the Rev. William S. Freeman’s nonsectarian pre-meeting prayer.

If meetings and events were commenced with words of kindness and empathy, I believe such an invocation would put us all in a better place to listen to and respect others. Those who are offended that the reverend does not invoke Jesus are conveying their prejudice that such gatherings should be commenced with a Christian invocation, disrespecting the differing beliefs of others.

I have friends who are believers, and I understand the comfort they find therein. Personally, I think if we all believed that this is our one and only life, we would be more compassionate in all of our interactions.

Jana Shaker, Riverside

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