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Aiken must reassess meetings

Opening prayer challenged as being overtly Christian

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AIKEN --- It was a moment of awkward silence Monday evening as Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh changed up the usual format of the meeting.

At every city of Aiken meeting, a member takes a turn saying a prayer or blessing, but Cavanaugh opted for a minute of silence instead, in response to a challenge to the opening prayer.

The city administrator's office received an eight-page letter at the end of June from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Madison, Wis., that investigates what it terms violations of the separation of church and state.

Rebecca Markert, an attorney for the foundation, submitted the letter to city council on behalf of an Aiken resident. Markert said she couldn't comment on the resident's complaint specifically, but labeled the city's prayer unnecessary at a secular meeting.

"We'd prefer if they'd drop prayer altogether," she said.

Markert's staff compiled all the prayers from meetings in 2010 and said many of them are predominantly Christian.

"We understand that these prayers are almost always addressed to God, and end 'in Jesus' name' or some variation thereof, such as 'in your Son's name,' " the letter stated.

The group said council also violates Fourth Circuit ruling against government-sponsored prayers that are sectarian, denominational, and invoke a particular faith or deity.

The organization has more than 16,000 members, with more than 100 members in South Carolina, Markert said.

City Administrator Roger LeDuc said council members decided they would continue with prayer again at the next meeting in August, despite the complaint, because they feel it's something that's important.

"We just can't use what would be referenced to Christian faith," said LeDuc. For example, the prayer will reference God, but not Jesus.

LeDuc encouraged council members to write out a prayer if they felt they may fall into violation of the rule.

Now every Aiken County governing body is double-checking its compliance.

Aiken County Council and the school district have never received a complaint although they have prayed before meetings for more than 30 years.

Aiken County Council chairman Ronnie Young has said he will continue the practice as he and Councilman Willar Hightower have for years.

Aiken County Schools attorney Bill Burkhalter said although schools and sporting events are regulated by state laws invoking a moment of silence, the school board has an open-ended practice of prayer before meetings rather than a policy.

"They are adult board members and have a broader range of discretion," he said.

The prayers are alternated among district-level administrators and board members, and some have opted for inspirational poems in the past instead of a prayer.

Markert said for now the organization will deal with the complaint with the city first, but additional examination of other governing bodies may follow.

She declined to say what action the organization might take.

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emanuel kant
0
Points
emanuel kant 07/15/10 - 06:58 am
0
0
When religion is in the

When religion is in the business to claim one political party is more godly than another and tries to make policy by taking over the bible....than i have to quote JEFFERSON.....in all countries and all ages ..the cleric\has been hostile to liberty and is always aligned with the despote ..in AMERICAS case the great gop....lol...and to bring up OBAMA in this case is ...testimony to the moral confusion some of you folks suffer ...to compare a married man with two children that obviously loves his family ..and call him the anti christ ...and than turn around and whorship an obvious glutenous...fat drug addicted 4TIMES married prescription thief...as the messiah..of a political party /....shows me the confusion ..and collectice sociopatic desiese that this bible thumping causes in the religious right.....have a wonderfull morning augustans

emanuel kant
0
Points
emanuel kant 07/15/10 - 06:58 am
0
0
When religion is in the

When religion is in the business to claim one political party is more godly than another and tries to make policy by taking over the bible....than i have to quote JEFFERSON.....in all countries and all ages ..the cleric\has been hostile to liberty and is always aligned with the despote ..in AMERICAS case the great gop....lol...and to bring up OBAMA in this case is ...testimony to the moral confusion some of you folks suffer ...to compare a married man with two children that obviously loves his family ..and call him the anti christ ...and than turn around and whorship an obvious glutenous...fat drug addicted 4TIMES married prescription thief...as the messiah..of a political party /....shows me the confusion ..and collectice sociopatic desiese that this bible thumping causes in the religious right.....have a wonderfull morning augustans

emanuel kant
0
Points
emanuel kant 07/15/10 - 06:59 am
0
0
Apologize for the double post

Apologize for the double post

JustSpeakingMyMind
203
Points
JustSpeakingMyMind 07/15/10 - 07:18 am
0
0
I would encourage the people

I would encourage the people of Aiken County to stick to what they are doing and lean on Romans 12:2; And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
The First Amendment never intended to separate Christian principles from government. yet today we so often hear the First Amendment coupled with the phrase "separation of church and state." The First Amendment simply states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Obviously, the words "separation," "church," or "state" are not found in the First Amendment; furthermore, that phrase appears in no founding document.
This nation was founded on Christian principles and our founding fathers never intended to remove GOD or Jesus from anything this country stands for, keep up the prayer Aiken, God knows we all need it.

shelly11662
5
Points
shelly11662 07/15/10 - 08:08 am
0
0
Amen JustSpeakingMyMind amen!

Amen JustSpeakingMyMind amen!

disssman
6
Points
disssman 07/15/10 - 08:28 am
0
0
Megadottos Emanuel.

Megadottos Emanuel.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 07/15/10 - 08:31 am
0
0
BYW it is amazing who some

BYW it is amazing who some people put up as heros? No wonder we are in the shape we are.

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/15/10 - 09:12 am
0
0
Secular humanism is every bit

Secular humanism is every bit as much a religion as any other belief or cosmic view. It's just not organized in quite the same way as most. Its "believers" tend to organized themselves into groups such as "Freedom from Religion" and their goal is to obstruct and hinder people of other faiths from their free expression in public places because they don't share the same beliefs.

Such charming people, these secular humanists. They put man in the place of the Divine and look where they are taking our culture. Moral relativism, self-centeredness and licentiousness, and the devaluation of human life and dignity at all its stages.

Aren't we so fortunate to have these anti-faith people in political and social ascendancy!

burninater
9680
Points
burninater 07/15/10 - 10:03 am
0
0
There you go again Fiat,

There you go again Fiat, insisting that those who don't find compelling evidence that the latest in a long chain of supernatural beings is anything but a human invention must therefore be engaged in self-worship. Your mind is trapped in a conceptual trap, convinced that worship in itself is inevitable, and that only the target of worship varies. This is incorrect.
You can argue that empiricism and skepticism take the validity of scientific inquiry as an article of faith, but to call this worship is not justified by the manner in which it is practiced, nor is it justified by the independently confirmable products of its investigatory claims.

And yes, we ARE fortunate that we are finally beginning to take seriously the Consitutional clause barring religious tests for office holders, even if it has taken over 200 years for the Founding Fathers' wisdom to overcome the practice of religious zealotry in our great nation.

crackerjack
150
Points
crackerjack 07/15/10 - 10:01 am
0
0
People always tell me, that

People always tell me, that they are just one person and their vote can't change things. Here's a case of one atheist getting an atheist organization to stop prayer at a government meeting. I can remember a day when majority ruled. But that's before people and politicians lost their ability to stand up for their beliefs, no matter what. Now the've become a bunch of weak, whining, PC correct, losers.

dominionfs
0
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dominionfs 07/15/10 - 10:04 am
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Fiat usually posts thought

Fiat usually posts thought provoking comments, but Fiat is way off on this one. Both the senate and house of representatives have their own office of chaplain. All meetings are opened with a prayer. All candidates for office in either house are virtually required to 'claim God or loose our vote' by the religious nut-jobs in their districts or states yet the U.S. in is terrible shape.
Claiming religion does not make one a decent human being, it is the actions of an individual that determines character. While I am not of the secular humanism belief myself Fiat, I submit that the SH is a lot more honest than your average politician. At least the SH will tell you up front that he is out for himself where the politician hides behind God, Country and Party to accomplish the same thing.

walrus4ever
354
Points
walrus4ever 07/15/10 - 10:19 am
0
0
Id rather see efforts to stop

Id rather see efforts to stop the prohibitions related to Sunday such as "blue laws" and alcohol restrictions. Both are religion driven oppression.

scoopdedoop64
2425
Points
scoopdedoop64 07/15/10 - 10:47 am
0
0
I would continue to pray and

I would continue to pray and would do it in the name of Jesus! who are these heathens to tell us what we can and can not do?

With that said the best thing to do is call all Christians to meet in an adjacent building or house and let them pray during the whole meeting so as to call upon the Lord's help. Then the heathens would not have to endure it and there would be no costly lawsuits. Its a terrible thing though when our country as got to this point that God is not welcome and the name of Jesus is considered so offensive.

baronvonreich
0
Points
baronvonreich 07/15/10 - 10:54 am
0
0
cracker - you are right. The

cracker - you are right. The "majority" used to rule. And that "majority" murdered and stole from Natives, enslaved blacks, suppressed and oppressed women, and now attempt to deny rights to homosexuals and others they don't deem as being as good as they are. The "majority" tries to skirt the Constitution and ignore court rulings and laws when it doesn't promote their narrow view. I am one of the 100 SC members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and I have complained to them many times about prayer at city, county, and school board meetings as well as having to cast my vote in election in a church. These things are all unconstitutional will eventually be banned. This isn't the case of one atheist complaining. There have been many. Regardless, the practice of the council is wrong and they know it and have known it and have been asked to stop many times, yet they ignore the taxpayer and do what they want until threatened with a lawsuit that they know they will lose.

What Christians need to understand is that at some point in time they will not be the majority in America and they will learn the hard way that the Constitution and court rulings and laws help protect minorities in whatever aspect that may be.

baronvonreich
0
Points
baronvonreich 07/15/10 - 10:58 am
0
0
walrus - there are no longer

walrus - there are no longer any blue laws in Aiken nor Sunday alcohol restrictions in Aiken City other than liquor stores which is still an archaic Christian-bribed state law.

CoastalDawg
125
Points
CoastalDawg 07/15/10 - 11:00 am
0
0
First, the "Aiken resident"

First, the "Aiken resident" should make himself or herself known because this is an accusation leading to civil harrassment by an organization in a totally different region of the country. We are guaranteed the right to face our accusers and if that ONE individual is trying to change the agenda which has been in force all these years then the accuser's identification should be made known. If he/she is "brave" enough to contact some organization in another state, then that same individual should be brave enough to take the heat or praise that would come with the disclosure. When people are elected to a political position they do not give up their rights as individuals - simply put, at the beginning of each meeting each one who wishes to participate in the prayer should verbally step outside the realm of being a representative of the government and declare himself as a citizen who wishes to pray for the council. We've come to a sad day in our existence when some organization can thwart the intentions of our founding fathers to allow each individual, and in fact our government (IN GOD WE TRUST), to seek the guidance of God in all our dealings. We've seen the destructive nature of allowing minority groups such as this to conduct secret assaults on our rights - by the way, there is NO such thing as separation of church and state in any of our official founding papers nor in court decisions - intelligent people will know the origin of that statement. The city of Aiken should continue as usual and NOT be frightened by a letter sent from some off the wall organization purporting to represent ONE individual from the city. Let THAT person get on the agenda, come to a meeting and challenge whatever he/she is supposing to challenge in person. End of story, continue as usual - don't be awkward about it. Mayor, step up and be a man, a godly man if you are, and don't give in to some ridiculous letter.

scoopdedoop64
2425
Points
scoopdedoop64 07/15/10 - 11:01 am
0
0
baronvonreich, you continue

baronvonreich, you continue to be wrong. What the counsel has ignored is the rantings of the few in order to continue what the majority have done for years which is to call out to God for help in trying times. Your failure to acknowledge God is the result of your bitterness, anger and hatred. Obviously, you are not happy and you want everyone to abandon God so they can be like you? No, not a good idea at all.

burninater
9680
Points
burninater 07/15/10 - 11:08 am
0
0
Coastal. The Founding Fathers

Coastal. The Founding Fathers were so firm in their position that a specific religion and an elected office should NOT be mixed that they included, in the Constitution, a specific clause BARRING a religious test for eligibility to hold office. "In God We Trust" was NOT a fundamental motto implemented by the Founding Fathers. It was added to currency by Congressional Act in 1864, at the request of then Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase.

http://www.ustreas.gov/education/fact-sheets/currency/in-god-we-trust.shtml

CoastalDawg
125
Points
CoastalDawg 07/15/10 - 11:10 am
0
0
"These things are all

"These things are all unconstitutional will eventually be banned. This isn't the case of one atheist complaining." I suppose that you are obviously an authority on the United States Constitution so please enlighten all of us as to which portion of the constitution is being violated when there is public prayer. Our country was not FOUNDED by atheists, our foundation is not atheistic in any way, shape, or form. If you're a citizen you have the right NOT to pray, not to believe in God although you certainly enjoy His benefits each moment that you live, breathing air He created and provides, eating food that grows in the earth over which mankind has been given dominion. So please, tell us who KNOW God, who KNOW how and why our country was founded (one of the biggest reasons being for freedom of religion thus the first amendment that congress shall not pass a law declaring any particular church to be the official church of the country), those of us, including YOU, who have benefited from our trust in God and service to Him, the exact phrase that is in our constitution that would prevent any person, any group, any entity from public prayer. It's not there and you know it, thus these desperate attempts to silence prayer. Public, private, whatever - prayer is allowable in our country at any time and any place. It's not a crime and if we ever MAKE it a crime God help us...

CoastalDawg
125
Points
CoastalDawg 07/15/10 - 11:13 am
0
0
By the way, I don't live in

By the way, I don't live in Aiken but I can make it my purpose to go there and pray at their meeting for them if the mayor is trembling in his shoes over this letter. Residents of Aiken, step up the plate, go to the meetings and open with prayer - you're a private citizen and you CAN pray there or anywhere so there are surely enough Christians who believe strongly enough in our form of government to make an appointment to get on the agenda and pray for them if they are all quivering over this ridiculous letter.

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/15/10 - 11:16 am
0
0
Dominionfs, I can't argue

Dominionfs, I can't argue with your 10:04 observations. So far, both Houses of Congress do have chaplains, and it is a person's choices and actions that define his character, not necessarily what he proclaims.

However, just because someone is honest about being out for his own selfish political ends doesn't make him more admirable than the politician who promises to look out for his constituents' interests and fails. At least with the latter, there's some hope of good character winning out while the former offers no hope at all. Lots of disgusting people are utterly shameless about their intentions and values.

Personally, I think most of us still fight a battle everyday to do generally what we think is right, with varying success. It's just more likely that people who believe in God, or at least in natural law, are going to have scruples regarding the fair treatment and rights of other people. With moral relativists, ie, secular humanists, it's more of a toss-up whether altruism will ever be part of the internal dialog. Practicality, personal preferences and pure self-preservation tend to take precedence over genuine selflessness and self-sacrifice for the sake of others, or even for the greater good of all. The "Greatest Generation" and it's influence really is disappearing precipitously.

My biggest problem with secular humanism, and the feature that makes it so diametrically opposed to faith in God, is how abysmally short-sighted it is. Navigating life with moral relativism is like using arithmetic to plot a course to a star instead of having access to calculus and other higher mathematics.

Not only won't you reach your goal, you're going to end up drifting, lost and finally dead, allegorically, and eventually, literally. It's not a perfect analogy and it is very limited, but it is cogent.

burninater
9680
Points
burninater 07/15/10 - 11:28 am
0
0
fiat -- "Navigating life with

fiat -- "Navigating life with moral relativism is like using arithmetic to plot a course to a star instead of having access to calculus and other higher mathematics.

Not only won't you reach your goal, you're going to end up drifting, lost and finally dead, allegorically, and eventually, literally. It's not a perfect analogy and it is very limited, but it is cogent."

---

And I would argue the exact opposite point. Navigating life with an immutable and unchanging morality developed by humans at a fixed point in time is "like using arithmetic to plot a course to a star instead of having access to calculus and other higher mathematics.

Not only won't you reach your goal, you're going to end up drifting, lost and finally dead, allegorically, and eventually, literally. It's not a perfect analogy and it is very limited, but it is cogent."

Inverting your input assumption improves the cogency of your otherwise excellent analogy.

dominionfs
0
Points
dominionfs 07/15/10 - 12:01 pm
0
0
Fiat- I think that deep

Fiat- I think that deep within each of us is a basic or fundamental idea of God,regardless of the athist, agnostic, secular humanism labels imposed by ourselves or others. I agree that with varying degrees of success we try to do what we think is right each day.
You make the point of the politician who promises to look out for his constituents interest and fails, I refer to the politician who promises to look out for his constituents interest knowing full well he has no intention of doing so, which to my cynical mind concerning politicians is far too often the norm. I much more admire someone who tells me his intentions up front, at least I can attempt to minimize the damage. Forewarned is forarmed, as the saying goes.
My disagreement with your position is that you seem to imply that morals or scruples are the exclusive domain of the religiously affiliated. Am I to understand that a secular humanist would not help a friend in need, contribute to the charity of their choice etc. If an SH always does what is in their best interest, cannot the motive sometimes be be to feel good about oneself?. Mother Theresa was held up as an example of unselfishness, yet perhaps she was the most selfish person of all because she always did what made her feel good, and that was helping others. The religionists idea that one has to behave in a certain way for salvation or rapture, some other worldly reward seems the same to me as the motivation of the SH, to do what I need to do to 'get mine'.
Perhaps SH is a short-sighted approach to existance as you claim, but that is no concern of mine. My concern is attempting to live MY life in accordance with MY beliefs understanding that MY beliefs are not shared by everyone. If I am allowed to believe as I choose, what gives me the right to attempt to deny that same right to others?

DanK
784
Points
DanK 07/15/10 - 12:16 pm
0
0
One must wonder what is

One must wonder what is accomplished by praying aloud in public. It is obviously not a personal or reverential communion with their deity, because that would be done silently. It is actually a means to proclaim aloud that their beliefs are more important than the time, thoughts and beliefs of others. People have 24 hours in a day to pray. There is no need for them to pray aloud during a business meeting. Not only is it a waste of taxpayer money to spend time on non-business activities, it distracts from the business functions of the meeting, and is offensive to those who do not share the same spiritual beliefs as those leading the prayer. People who truly believe can pray in their own way, to their own deity, on their own time, in their own place, or in groups with others who share their beliefs.

baronvonreich
0
Points
baronvonreich 07/15/10 - 12:24 pm
0
0
coastal - the SCOTUS has time

coastal - the SCOTUS has time and time again interpreted the Constitution as to ban the promotion of one religion over another in government and this is exactly what the Aiken city council has been doing. They have been told to stop, threatened with a lawsuit, and they will indeed now stop that practice because their attoney has told them to or else they will lose in a court of law. That would be a court of law in the United States that is to uphold the country's laws, not religious beliefs.

dominionfs
0
Points
dominionfs 07/15/10 - 12:28 pm
0
0
IRT-scoopdedoop64Thursday,

IRT-scoopdedoop64Thursday, Jul. 15 10:47 AM

It is not 'the heathens' telling you.

Matthew 6:5-6.

grouse
1635
Points
grouse 07/15/10 - 12:32 pm
0
0
This country was NOT founded
Unpublished

This country was NOT founded on religious principles, it was founded on law. Prayers are not relevant to the country conducting its business. Those who believe should realize that prayer is between them and God. Jesus denounced public prayer saying that it should be done alone. Anything else is grandstanding.

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/15/10 - 12:37 pm
0
0
Thanks for the complement,

Thanks for the complement, Burninater. My point, though, is that creation/reality has certain immutable laws that govern it--gravity is one such; time and space are others. There are different mathematical systems that are applicable for defining, understanding and using those external, objective facts.

The old standard by way of an example is "Schrodinger's Cat". Newtonian physics brings no understanding to physical reality moving at speeds approaching light speed and beyond, and even quantum mechanics has shown its limitations. (And there, my friend, is the limit of my ability to employ physics as a useful parallel.)

Making happy decisions and taking successful action demands that the right tool is used to analyze the situation and review the alternative choices and actions. If some things never change, using the right tool to deal with those things will always produce the same--or at least, predictable--results.

Our understanding and ability to access the right tool has certainly evolved over the millennia, even over eons, epoch and ages. I don't believe, however, that reality itself is changing. And at least some part of that external reality we are able to understand with crystal clarity even now. Secular Humanism is a significant retreat from that clarity. The results of it are obvious to many people, to those who are able to see beyond our own time and place, and to view our nation and culture within the greater context of human history and civilizations.

That is the point I am making. Secular humanism is a spoon when what's needed is a hydraulic drill. Or reverse that analogy. In any case, SH doesn't possess the subtlety or the power to be a standard for dealing with the transcendent beauty and dignity, the flawed fragility, of Humanity.

But even more important than being an inadequate tool for humanity is the fact that secular humanism simply ignores and rejects the reality of what a human being actually is. The idea is to relegate all the human imperatives to "boldly go" etc, to childhood and fantasy when they really are essential aspects of our nature. The goal, then, is to have us just settle for being kept and maintained, that we would seek what is safe and "enough", to live only for survival and comfort.

The only problem is that settling for that it doesn't bring safety or enough because it is so very contrary to our nature. People are born to dream, to seek, to strive, to expend our lives and love in a quest to achieve something, for greatness, for something enduring and beyond ourselves. Being forced to settle for the "safe" and "enough" of secular humanism results in frustration, anger, envy, greed, violence and want. Does that list of social evils sound familiar? It's a reminder that secular humanism is no different from virtually all other worldviews or faith-philosophies. They all are some form of "settling". Except one.

IMO, and after looking at everything else I could search out--including some very arcane things and some scary things--Christianity is the only faith and cosmic view that constantly, unrelentingly calls on and totally equips each individual to transcend himself and not settle for anything but absolute Truth, which is revealed in perfect love.

Apologies for the length of this comment.

baronvonreich
0
Points
baronvonreich 07/15/10 - 12:42 pm
0
0
Looks like Aikenites would

Looks like Aikenites would rather government get down to its secular business and leave the unconstitutional, religious grandstanding to their own time and property. I guess Aiken is just full of "heathens" like Atheists, Muslims, and the other targeted enemies of Christian hate and oppression. I guess as is to be expected Christians forget about the "Golden Rule" when it doesn't fit their narrow-minded view.

http://access.aikenstandard.com/pollBooth.php?op=results&pollID=325

Should the City of Aiken open meetings with a prayer?

Yes, and it should be a Christian prayer 25.62 % (113)
Yes, but it should not reference a specific religion 9.07 % (40)
No, they should have a moment of silence 4.54 % (20)
Nothing at all. Get down to business. 60.77 % (268)
Total Votes: 441

burninater
9680
Points
burninater 07/15/10 - 12:53 pm
0
0
Fiat, I would have you look

Fiat, I would have you look at history to decide which moral tool was a greater benefit to the innate human drive to boldly go, as you say.

The human epoch where Christian theology was the strongest controller of social norms was the period spanning the Dark and Middle Ages. Limiting of societal control by Christian theology marked the beginning of the Renaissance, and the beginning of the freeing of humanity to boldly express its drive for transcendence, loosened of the shackles of moral tyranny.

I don't believe that current religiosity is going to return us to moral tyrannies of the past, as I believe that too many religious-minded folk are quite pleased with the improvement of modern life by technologies developed hand-in-hand with the rise of secular humanism.

But I think European history, and current conditions in modern religious theocracies, such as Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, cause severe harm to your underlying argument.

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