As we noted yesterday, Americans United and its allies recently settled a case in Brevard County, Fla., dealing with legislative prayer. Under the terms of the settlement, the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners has agreed not to reinstitute its old practice of discriminating against people who don’t belong to mainstream, monotheistic religions when selecting invocation speakers.
Meetings in Brevard are now opened with a moment of silence. Other government bodies might want to follow suit. Not only does this practice avoid problems of picking and choosing among religions, it also ensures that guest speakers don’t go off the rails.
A few days ago, several Democratic members of the Virginia House of Delegates walked out after a minister who had been selected to give an opening invocation started ranting about abortion and marriage equality.
The Rev. Dr. Robert M. Grant Jr. of Father’s Way Church in Warrenton warned of God’s “wrath” coming down on those who tolerate abortion and LGBTQ rights. His remarks led one Democratic legislator to yell, “Is this a prayer or a sermon?”
When it became apparent that Grant wasn’t going to stop, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) terminated his remarks by banging on her gavel and calling for the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, reported the Virginia Mercury.
Some House members later expressed dismay over the prayer.
“It was totally disrespectful to all of us, all of us in this House,” Del. Luke Torian (D-Prince William County), told the Mercury.
Even some Republicans thought Grant, who has been invited to give the guest invocation by Del. Michael Webert (R-Fauquier County), went too far.
“I don’t know if he was ill-instructed or didn’t realize what he was here to do,” said Del. Matt Fariss (R-Campbell County). “This wasn’t the place or the time to do all of that. … This is a time we need to be working together and not being divisive.”
The problem is, this sort of thing has happened before. Some guest pastors decide to use their time at the podium to launch into political harangues or attack members of the community, such as people who are LGBTQ, abortion-rights advocates and others. (Here are just two examples, one from Kansas and one from Alabama.)
It’s offensive and rightly angers many people. After all, the government is supposed to represent all of us.
There’s one sure-fire way to make certain that no one is offended by disturbing content in official legislative prayers: Stop having them.