Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The constitutionality of prayer by David Barton

These practices prove, at best, that the Framers simply did not share a common understanding of the Establishment Clause, and, at worst, that they, like other politicians, could raise constitutional ideals one day and turn their backs on them the next. Amazingly, Justice Souter asserts that his understanding of the constitutionality of prayer is more accurate than that of those who created the document! The dissent, however, quickly attacked Souter’s implication that history contained confused precedents on this issue. Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking for Justices William Rehnquist, Byron White, and Clarence

Thomas, explained:

From our Nation’s origin, prayer has been a prominent part of governmental ceremonies and proclamations. The Declaration of Independence, the document marking our birth as a separate people, “appealed to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions” and avowed “a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” In his first inaugural address, after swearing his oath of office on a Bible, George Washington deliberately made a prayer a part of his first official act as President. Such supplications have been a characteristic feature of inaugural addresses ever since.

Thomas Jefferson, for example, prayed in his first inaugural address. In his second inaugural address, Jefferson acknowledged his need for divine guidance and invited his audience to join his prayer. Similarly, James Madison, in his first inaugural address, placed his confidence “in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being with fervent supplications and best hopes for the future.” The other two branches of the Federal Government also have a long-established practice of prayer at public events.

There is simply no support for the proposition that the officially sponsored nondenominational invocation and benediction read by Rabbi Gutterman with no one legally coerced to recite them violated the Constitution of the United States. To the contrary, they are so characteristically American they could have come from the pen of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln himself.

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