The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on May 5 that the town council in Greece, New York could pray at the beginning of its meetings. Because of that ruling, I immediately began asking the Davis School Board to begin opening our meetings with prayer. I asked in each of our regularly scheduled meetings since then. When I asked for the fourth time on June 17, Board President Tamara Lowe read a prepared statement. She stated that she, as board president, was authorized by board policy to decide what would be on the agendas of school board meetings. She then stated that she would not place prayer on the Davis School Board agendas because she felt it would be divisive.
I have been present during the offering of many prayers in public meetings. Only rarely have I felt a spirit of devisiveness in a prayer. The vast majority of prayers generate a feeling of understanding and cooperation. I must say I find it inconsistent to pledge allegiance to the flag, saying, “…one nation, under God…”, and then refuse to seek his blessing in our public meetings.
As I consider the history of prayer in public meetings since our nation’s founding, I cannot feel it appropriate to condemn our forefathers for praying to begin their public meetings.
For centuries our country has recognized the rule of the majority. Of course we have also worked to recognize and protect the rights of minorities. In the case of prayer, the rights of no minority are violated by being present when others pray. Although our constitution guarantees a right to freedom of speech and a right to free exercise of religion, there is no recognized right not to hear a prayer. In the case of prayer in school board meetings, any attendee who prefers not to be in the room during the prayer could enter the room after the completion of the prayer.
Ultimately the Davis School Board president should more carefully consider whether we are “one school district, under God” and whether “In God our school district trusts”. If not, she may not really represent the values of our nation and especially of our community.