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How is praying at government meetings 'respecting an establishment of religion'?

How is praying at government meetings 'respecting an establishment of religion'?
Outside the Supreme Court in 2013, religious activists pray following oral arguments in the case of Town of Greece vs. Galloway, which deals with prayer in government. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

To the editor: In arguing for the end of prayers at local government meetings, the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board fails to comment on the portion of the 1st Amendment that states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Just how is an attendee at one of these public meetings required to listen to a prayer? People are free to look at their smartphones or hum a tune to themselves during a prayer.

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There are no policemen watching to ensure they respect the religion being espoused. There is no codification of religion by the particular governmental authority. So what is the problem?

Mel Wolf, Burbank

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To the editor: Alas, it appears that the Supreme Court’s misguided 2014 Town of Greece, N.Y., ruling — which upheld distinctly Christian prayers at government meetings — probably will favor the Chino Valley Unified School District’s appeal to resume pious invocations at its board meetings.

Your spot-on editorial omitted how that 5-4 opinion was decided by the five practicing Roman Catholic justices. Even now, after two changes on the bench, a devout majority remains, with four practicing Catholics and one Episcopalian. To say the least, those five are disinclined to issue a ruling that might confine religion to its proper places.

This agnostic prays that The Times’ hope will be realized: Local governments can and should set a good example by conducting prayerless meetings. Nothing is so constitutionally sacred as the guarantee to be free of religion.

Roberta Helms, Santa Barbara

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To the editor: As a minister, I am sometimes called upon at public and private meetings to offer a prayer. Since I respect people of all faiths and none, I offer some generic, prayer-like words:

“Let us lift our spirits. Spirit of Love, known by many names — God and Goddess, Yahweh and Allah, Dios and Divine, Nature and Life — may we be grateful for this day. May we be grateful for this place. And may we be grateful for these people.”

Then I conclude with, “Now and forevermore, Amen.”

I’ve heard complaints from some die-hard Christians that I didn’t pray to Jesus, and I imagine some die-hard atheists wish I wouldn’t pray at all.

Personally, since I respect the 1st Amendment, I agree with your editorial, but sometimes I’m put on the spot, so I’ve come up with words that I hope don’t cause too many people to say, “Oy vey!”

The Rev. William S. Freeman, Chatsworth

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