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Invocations invoke debate about invitations

A federal appeals court has ruled against a Wiccan priestess from

Virginia and her bid to be among religious leaders who give an

invocation when the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors meets.

What is your opinion of this decision, and what about the ACLU’s

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claim that it smacks of preferring one religion over another?

We could stop this controversy of who is eligible and who is not

eligible to “lead prayers” at the beginning of governmental councils,

commissions and other such bodies by simply abandoning this archaic

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practice. If the principle of separation of church and state has any

validity, it seems to me that there is no good reason for

governmental bodies to have “opening prayers.” If asked to

participate in such a charade, I would say no. And, by the way, in

more than five years I have lived in Glendale, I have never been

asked to do this.

If I were asked, I would say no. It would not be because prayer

would not be helpful and/or useful, but because prayer at such

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meetings is superfluous. Few people seem to pay much attention to the

person leading the prayers in the first place. In the second place,

everyone seems to be watching and waiting to see what kind of

ecumenical “mistake” the person praying might make. Will he or she

mention Jesus? Will he or she be too specific -- not allowing for

non-Christian viewpoints? Will he or she be exclusive?

I would suggest that we let government officials work out their

agendas on the basis of good old-fashioned ethics. Opening prayers

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are absolutely unnecessary. Eliminating them would help us reaffirm

the principle of separation of church and state.

I don’t see a logical place for a Wiccan priestess, a Catholic

priest, a Baptist minister, a Unity minister, or any other

representative of any church to open governmental meetings.

If the government officials need this kind of prayer for them to

do their jobs, we have elected the wrong people. Good government

officials will make decisions on principle and will never need

someone like me or any other minister or priest to lead them in the

right direction. They will already know the way to make correct

decisions on behalf of the people they are serving.

The practice of “opening prayers” is an old custom, an old

tradition, that needs scrapping at every level -- local, state and

national.

Let’s encourage each government official to pray, if he or she

feels it necessary, in his or her own way. And above all, encourage

each government official to act on principle!

THE REV. THOMAS E.

WITHERSPOON

Unity Church of the Valley

La Crescenta

Our nation is becoming more and more secular, and I anticipate

issues of this type to occur more and more frequently. Christianity,

however, is becoming viewed as a silent majority, with fundamentalism

on the right and liberalism on the left. I believe the board of

supervisors has the right to be selective in whom it invites to do

the invocation.

There are several good books referencing criteria for what

constitutes a “religion” and what may suggest a “cult” organization.

This issue deserves a gathering of information so that informed

decisions can be made. My personal concern with anyone offering an

invocation is, “To whom are they praying?”

THE REV. ALICE

PARSONS ZULLI

Director of Bereavement

Support and Services,

Glendale Adventist

Medical Center

Regarding the Wiccan priestess from Virginia: Certainly she should

be allowed to participate in any invocation given among the

supervisors in Chesterfield County.

We live in a pluralistic society. We have opened the door to

religious inclusion, involvement and participation. She chooses to

participate in a nontraditional way. Yet, to others, conservative

Bible-believing religion is nontraditional. Once you open the door to

public religion, you must keep it open to everyone, no matter the

preference. That is the nature of freedom. The beauty and power of

freedom lies in the element of trust.

JOHN JENKINS

Retired Pastor

First Southern

Baptist Church

Glendale

There is an old saying to the effect that what is good for the

goose is good for the gander. I believe that is the situation we are

seeing in Virginia.

If Christians are going to be allowed to pray before the meeting

of a certain board of supervisors, and if Jews are going to be

allowed to pray, and if (fill in the blank) are going to be allowed

to pray, how can a Wiccan priestess be denied the same opportunity? I

believe the ACLU is right when it claims that the federal appeals

court’s decision to deny her the opportunity to pray smacks of

preferring one religion over another.

You and I may smile at the concept of a witch or Wiccan priestess,

but the fact remains that to allow one or two or three religions to

offer prayers but not the “different” faith means that the government

is deciding which faith is “OK” and which faith is not “OK.” Once

again, I am amazed and in awe of our founding fathers for their very

brilliant forming of a government that shall make no law respecting

or enforcing a state religion. Most of the country may be nominally

Christian, but that fact does not mean we get to restrict or ban

other forms of religious expression. If that Virginia board of

supervisors is going to allow Christians to pray, then I believe it

must allow the Wiccans to pray as well.

As Voltaire said in the 18th century, and I’m paraphrasing here: I

may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the

death your right to say it. So, not only freedom of religion is

involved here, but also freedom of speech.

Let’s hear it for the 1st amendment!

THE REV. SKIP LINDEMAN

Congregational Church of the

Lighted Window

United Church of Christ

La Canada Flintridge

Every community must set at least some restrictions on which

religious groups should be invited to participate in public

invocations.

For example, would representatives from a religious group that

condones the sexual abuse of children as part of its practice (and

such groups exist) be allowed to give the invocation? Not on your

life, and rightfully so.

If Ms. Simpson is a “separation of church and stater” as she says,

why would she even want to lead in a religious activity at a

government meeting? In doing so, she is violating her own beliefs.

She herself says that this belief is “what was driving me all along,”

(“Wiccan loses appeal in Virginia prayer lawsuit,” Associated Press).

If this is true, then her motives in this matter are highly

questionable. Does she honestly want her religion to be fairly

included, or is the real aim to force the courts to eliminate the

public expression of any faith, including Judeo-Christian prayer?

The courts are right not to let special-interest groups legally

bully the public, especially in smaller communities that cannot match

the resources available to groups like the ACLU.

So which groups should participate in invocations? Those who earn

the right to be heard through love, not those who force others to

hear through legalities; those who forgo their rights in order to

serve others, not those who force others to respect their rights.

This is the example that Jesus Christ set for us all.

PASTOR JON BARTA

Valley Baptist Church

Burbank

This situation demonstrates why it’s a bad idea to have public

invocations precede government meetings. With the huge variety of

faiths practiced in America, it’s particularly difficult to choose

which beliefs get the implied state sanction. Excluding Wicca because

it isn’t within the Judeo-Christian tradition clearly favors certain

religions over others and violates the U.S. Constitution.

The Chesterfield County, Virginia determination of allowable

faiths apparently also excludes Hinduism, Buddhism and the religion

practiced by the indigenous inhabitants of Virginia. Perhaps the

supervisors were uncomfortable with a woman leading the prayer, and

it’s sexism as well as religious bias.

Not being familiar with Wicca, I did some investigation and found

that it predates Christianity. Current practitioners cite roots in

early Celtic pagan Earth-based practices. A Hunter God and Fertility

Goddess are emphasized in some Wiccan groups, while others worship a

single deity with female and male components. Other Wiccans consider

themselves polytheists and honor many ancient gods such as Pan and

Diana. Some Wiccans consider all of the above to be symbolic, and are

atheists.

All flavors of Wicca honor the Earth and nature and practice a

balanced, peaceful, harmonious way of life. Their basic tenet is

“harm none.”

Archeological evidence of Paleolithic Wiccan societies is slight.

The early Christian Church in Europe seems to have destroyed their

temples and art work much like the Catholic Church did with ancient

Native American religious works.

Some people mistake Wicca for Satanism, but there is no

relationship.

SHARON WEISMAN

Atheist

Glendale


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