A city councilman in Washington state has a stance on pre-meeting prayers that is too extreme for even some staunch Religious Right allies to accept.
John Trumbo of the Kennewick City Council recently suggested that council meetings ought to open with an invocation “directed in name and reference to the same God addressed in the Founding Fathers’ signatory documents that established this nation,” the Tri-City (Wash.) Herald reported.
What Trumbo tried to say is: prayers should only be directed to the Judeo-Christian God. When a colleague asked him to clarify, he said, “the God of Abraham, the same God who Jesus Christ refers to as his father and is one with him.”
He added that government buildings in Washington, D.C., are filled with “depictions of Christian religious scenes and biblical inscriptions,” which is a clear indication in his mind that the Founding Fathers would want the Christian God to be the focus of local government pre-meeting prayers.
“It’s all over the place and none of it’s Allah and none of it’s Buddha,” he claimed.
Trumbo justified his grossly inaccurate position with an incorrect interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Greece v. Galloway. In May, the high court said communities are free to open their meetings with predominantly Christian prayers, but they may not exclude other points of view.
Too bad for Trumbo that even the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Religious Right legal group that has represented the Town of Greece and helped craft its new prayer policy, doesn’t support Trumbo’s take.
“I suspect there’d be some legal difficulties in deciding who someone prays to,” said Brett Harvey, senior counsel for the ADF.
And let’s not forget that the Founding Fathers made no references to God or Jesus in the U.S. Constitution, which is the basis for all laws in this country. If the founders had really wanted America to be a “Christian nation,” wouldn’t they have said so? But they didn’t say so and America is not officially Christian, much to Trumbo’s chagrin.
So Trumbo used the Declaration of Independence as “proof” that the Founding Fathers promoted Christianity, but that’s a tired – and weak – argument. Yes, that document does reference a creator – but it is a deistic God, not the fundamentalist Christian God Trumbo pines for. Plus, the Declaration is little more than an 18th century press release. It has no legal authority today.
Additionally, Trumbo’s statement that “Christian religious scenes and biblical inscriptions” in Washington, D.C., are proof of the founder’s intent show how little he knows about history. Washington did not become the capitol of the United States until 1800. By then, many of the founders including George Washington, Ben Franklin and George Mason were already dead. Most of the government buildings in Washington today did not exist until well after all the Founding Fathers had died. To suggest they had anything to do with biblical inscriptions that may be on those buildings is simply false.
Fortunately Trumbo’s scheme to exclude non-Christians doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Not long after he made his proposal, the city council tabled the idea, the Herald said.
Unsurprisingly, such debate has plagued many city councils nationwide ever since the Greece decision. The Winter Garden, Fla., City Commission recently agreed to open its meetings with a moment of silence, but didn’t arrive at this reasoned conclusion right away.
A controversy started when Mayor John Rees had Winter Garden’s police chief remove 51-year-old resident Joseph Richardson from a commission meeting in August. Richardson’s crime? He had the nerve not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance because he objects to the words “under God.”
Richardson also objects to the commission’s policy of opening meetings with an invocation delivered by a commission member, he told WOFL Fox 35 Orlando, and he won’t stand during the prayers.
Richardson said he asked the commission to change its prayer policy back in May, which they finally voted to do last week and switch to a moment of silence.
Rees opposed that decision, Fox 35 said. He also apologized for the negative press Winter Garden received thanks to his decision to remove Richardson from the August meeting in the first place.
It’s really no surprise that cities like Kennewick and Winter Garden are dealing with these issues. The Supreme Court created a constitutional mess in Greece, and now lower-level governments are left to clean it up. Sadly this will be an ongoing issue for years to come – unless the high court changes its mind.