Monday, May 5, 2014

Not a Prayer

It shouldn't be a surprise, really, that the Supremes sanctioned the practice of the Town of Greece (a rather amusing name under the circumstances) in summoning the local clergy to drone prayers at the commencement of town board meetings.   It may surprise some, however, that it has been the law for some time in our Glorious Republic that such prayers may be made at meetings of governmental bodies, and that the practice is not all that unusual.

True, the rule has been that such prayers should not be overtly preferential towards particular religions.  I don't see this latest decision as changing that rule, but for the fact that the governing bodies of most municipalities in our merry old land govern municipalities the residents of which are (nominally at least) largely Christian as are most of the clergy.  It seems that the Supremes find it not unnatural for prayers that local governments act wisely at their meetings be for the most part Christian in those circumstances, and consider it burdensome for them to be required to import the clergy of other faiths to perform the seemingly thankless task of begging for God's blessing.

I confess that it doesn't matter to me in the least whether prayers are or are not said when our local (or other) leaders gather to govern us, nor do I care what kind of prayers are said, provided that they are not blatantly stupid, clumsy, grandiose or judgmental.  I take it as unquestionable that such prayers have no effect, and think they have no purpose.  They may be said to be needless as a result, but that is not to say they are illegal.  I attend such meetings in a professional capacity on a regular basis and ignore them, when they are said, as a matter of course.  I think it more than likely that most everyone present ignores them as well--just as they do at Church.  As for the Pledge of Allegiance, I've been reciting it for a very long time and don't care that the word "God" appears in it; at this point I'd be confused if it did not.

So perhaps I'm not the most appropriate person to address this decision, as it means so little to me.   I'd find it interesting, at least, if the Hymn of Cleanthes was said before a meeting.  Substitute "God" for "Zeus" and it could be intoned without causing a raised eyebrow anywhere in these United States.  All prayers are the same for the most part, at least those that would be said by anyone at the meeting of a governmental body.  This is significant, I think; or perhaps "insignificant" is a better word.

As prayer is needless, though, so was this litigation.  Given the absurd expense of legal action, I find it absurd this action was brought to begin with, let alone brought before the Supreme Court.  One should pick one's legal battles wisely, and I think it unwise to spend the huge sums which no doubt were spent (one way or another) and the lost time which was devoted to the hoped for eradication of a kind of chant recited at the commencement of a board meeting. 

What, indeed, could have been accomplished even if the suit was successful?  There was no reasonable chance that prayer would have been forbidden, especially by this court.  At best, the Town of Greece would have been put to the expense of summoning non-Christian prayer-sayers to say a prayer now and then.  This cannot be considered a mighty achievement by any reasonable person.  If one doesn't want prayer, it presumably is no victory to assure that there will be different prayers by different people.

Simply put, we have better things to do with our time and money and so does the law.  There comes a point where matters of principle generate nothing but trouble, particularly when it comes to litigation. 

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