Thursday, August 23, 2012

Imposing Prayer Creates Problems

The folks in Missouri have decided to confront nonreligious residents head on.  They voted this month to approve an amendment to the state constitution that would allow public prayer.  Of course, that ignores the reality that public prayer is perfectly legal nationwide provided that no one is forced to participate.

River baptism
Just look at the number of people openly being baptized in rivers and shores every Sunday. There are also open-air churches and related public events.  Let’s not forget prayers before civic meetings and NASCAR races, among other activities.  Then there’s the Pledge of Allegiance’s “under God” and the line “in God we trust” on our money.

We’re really saturated with prayer.

The real concern behind such attempts to change the law has to do with the effort to impose fundamental Christian views on everyone else.  They want the “right” kind of prayers.  All they will do is continuing to drive a wedge between different faiths, which has already led to the shooting in a Sikh temple, the attempts to block a Muslim mosque from opening and the continual hatred spewed by religious bigots of all faiths.

Six people died in the Sikh Temple shooting.
Supporters may want to consider the flip side to their efforts:  Christians aren’t the majority in every country.  In fact, only about 2 in every 7 people in the world believe in Jesus.  As a minority, fundamentalists might also want to note a recent State Department report showing that smaller religions continue “to suffer loss of their rights across the globe with a rise in blasphemy laws and restrictions on faith practices.”

The 2011 International Religious Freedom Report found that almost half of the world's governments "either abuse religious minorities or did not intervene in cases of societal abuse."

The most discriminated people include Christians in Egypt, Tibetan Buddhists in China and Baha'is in Iran. In Indonesia, for example, a Christian was sentenced to prison for five years for distributing books.

It’s all legal.  Laws passed in those counties open the door to discrimination.  The Missouri vote does the same thing.  You can bet fundamentalist Christians will use the law to inflict their religious views on everyone within earshot and attempt to drown out anyone with a different religious preference up to and including quiet meditation.

Fortunately, there are courts outside the “Show Me” state who will likely show residents there why such a law violates the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states that government can pass no law regarding religion – prayer included.

There’s another point fundamentalists might want to think about.  The State Department report won praise from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, but chair Katrina Lantos Swett said the department still must convince policymakers that religious freedom should be a “moral imperative" in this country and abroad.

Good luck with that idea, especially among fundamentalists convinced they alone have the “true” faith.

Young Christian missionaries at the Olympics
Fundamentalists might also consider the multiple missionaries at the recent Olympics in London.  There, Christians, Muslims, vegans and their counterparts cheerfully mingle with the thousands of visitors and distribute flyers and brochures supporting their views. 

That’s what happens in a free society.

The State Department report didn’t overlook at obvious point: “… countries whose constitution, laws, policies, and practices protect religious freedom and human rights (are) the most vibrant and stable.”

That’s true in every state of the Union, too.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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