Came across this one at my pretend Internet girlfriend’s blog: It seems that a minister by the name of Tom Swartley was invited to give the opening prayer in the Nebraska Unicameral and he managed to piss off a lot of folks in the process including the Senator who had invited him:
The prayer was delivered by Tom Swartley, a minister at First Christian Church in Elm Creek. Standing at the front of the legislative chamber with his comments broadcast statewide, Swartley asked God for forgiveness for abortion, which he called a, “33-year-long nightmare.”
“We go to work and school and come home and watch TV while genocide, infanticide and homicide is being committed against our own children,” he said.
Swartley also asked forgiveness for “teaching the religion of evolution to our young citizens.”
“We put our children in the same category as other mammals and then we wonder why some act like animals,” he said.
The recitation of prayers prior to legislative sessions is pretty common in most states—as well as Congress—and the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that they’re not necessarily a violation of the establishment clause unless they’re used to promote a particular religious view or to disparage a different religious view. As a result a lot of states have established some ground rules on what is and isn’t allowed in an opening prayer so as not to run afoul of the First Amendment. In Nebraska the guidelines “forbid talking about issues that are on that day’s agenda for debate, or expressing any sentiment that could be considered political in nature.” Apparently the good Minister didn’t think his statements on abortion or Evolution were political in nature:
“I was praying to moral issues,” said Swartley, who held a Bible in his left hand. “I was not endorsing a candidate or political party.”
Swartley said he had read the guidelines sent in a letter from the clerk’s office inviting him to deliver the prayer, and he didn’t think praying about abortion would be in violation.
“I feel bad about the turmoil, but I don’t feel bad about my convictions, which are based on the Bible,” he said.
In short, Minister Swartley was being honest and, as much as I disagree with his views, I can’t fault him for being honest. Sure, he violated the rules, but I think the rules render the whole activity pointless to begin with and it really has no business being there in the first place. I agree with Senator Ernie Chambers who has called to eliminate the opening prayer ritual altogether and makes a point of being absent from the chamber while it’s taking place. Seems he was pretty pissed off about the incident:
“I have not been as enraged and furious in the Legislature as I am this morning,” said an obviously upset Chambers.
Chambers, who described Swartley’s prayer as divisive, insulting and wrong, renewed his call to do away with the morning prayer.
Senator Jim Cudaback, who it turns out had invited Swartley, wasn’t happy either saying that the Minister had “stepped over the line.” In fact Senator Cudaback is the whole reason I’m writing this entry because he went on to reprimand the Minister with the following:
“You don’t bring that kind of subject,” Cudaback said of Swartley’s prayer. “You’re here to make us feel good.”
Isn’t that just beautiful? Without realizing it the good Senator speaks the truth about religion: It’s here to make us feel good.
We don’t really die, we go on to live in Heaven where we’ll be reunited with all our loved ones who have passed on. We’re not descended from other animals, we’re unique having been hand-crafted by God. The Universe isn’t cold and impartial because God is there to make sure justice wins out in the end. We don’t have to think because we have a Sky-Daddy that encourages to be like children.
If the recitation of opening prayers is just to make the Senators feel good about what they’re doing then what’s the point? I suppose with the amount of money that trades hands for political favors that takes place in so many legislators they might need someone to boost their self-image a bit, assuming any of them have much of a conscious to begin with, but then perhaps we’d all be better served if they abandoned the ritual. It serves no real purpose, it doesn’t belong there, and it only leads to situations such as this one arising from time to time and distracting attention from the important business at hand.