Don't cut up the fabric

Aiken is rightly standing firm on prayer in public meetings

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Prayer helps.

Besides -- what can it hurt?

That prayer helps is a matter of deep faith for most of us, but it also has been the subject of scientific research, including a recent study by a University of Indiana professor in Mozambique. Clinical research there indicated significant improvements among hearing- and sight-impaired patients who were prayed over.

But even if you discount that kind of scientific study, what's the harm in prayer?

To some, the harm is that someone else is publicly espousing religious beliefs they don't agree with. So? Where's the actual harm?

Prayer before public meetings is under assault in America, most recently in Aiken, S.C., where the national Freedom From Religion Foundation has demanded the city council clean up or end its prayers. Public bodies can't engage in prayers that are sectarian or denominational -- favoring one religion over another.

Fine. Make sure the prayers are inclusive and nondenominational. Public bodies also could invite a rotating group of clergy to give prayers, making it even more inclusive.

If that's what the Freedom From Religion folks wanted, that might be the end of it. It's not.

"We'd prefer if they'd drop prayer altogether," an attorney for the foundation admits.

No doubt.

Still, Aiken residents won't be cowed, as they shouldn't. In an act of polite defiance, they held a prayer rally before last Monday's council meeting. An overflow crowd of as many as 700 showed up.

The thing is, this ought to be left up to a community to decide -- not an organization in another state that, frankly, mistakenly believes the Constitution somehow designates a right to be free "from" religion. There is no such right in our Constitution. Fact is, the First Amendment protects individuals' rights to express their religious beliefs.

The rules for governmental bodies are much more restrictive, obviously, but not to the point where prayer must be banned.

The practice of opening public meetings with prayers -- which was done by those who wrote our Constitution, by the way -- may not be among the most monumental of matters. But the principle of keeping America a spiritual nation, and defending our rights, definitely is.

That's part of the fabric of this country, like it or not. But if you don't like it, why would you feel either the legal or moral right to deny it to everyone else?

Neighborliness is also part of our fabric.

Or it used to be, anyway.

Comments (46) Add comment
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Tigger_The_Tiger
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Tigger_The_Tiger 08/13/10 - 12:39 pm
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Baron....I frequently agree

Baron....I frequently agree and I frequently disagree with you....but evidence is evidence. You are free to draw whatever conclusion you want....is the prayer the cause? Maybe, maybe not....but the evidence is still there. Just because you choose not to believe in prayer, doesn't make those who do, delusional, nor does it make it acceptable to be rude and disrespectful to them.

ohhsweetconcord
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ohhsweetconcord 08/13/10 - 12:47 pm
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I like the idea of a rotating

I like the idea of a rotating clergy. All religions, all denominations. Heck, even have some days when the there is no prayer at all, to satisfy the non-believers. Read from Richard Dawkin's books or something.

effete elitist liberal
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effete elitist liberal 08/13/10 - 01:30 pm
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Tigger: did you really think

Tigger: did you really think no one would look? The link you provided is to the SAME MOZAMBIQUE "STUDY" !! What are you trying to pull here?
There is a sub-link, which you didn't point out, to a Washington Post article which concluded every study purporting to link prayer with healing has been rejected as fatally flawed as science. I would not chose Baron's word "delusional," I think in these cases "Christian scientist" is an oxymoron. These "researchers" are so absolutely determined to get the outcome they want that they disregard the most basic protocols of scientific investigation. The argument in the case of the Mozambique instance that "it doesn't matter about the actual mechanism was, the fact still is that there was improvement following PIP" is flawed on two grounds. First, the whole point of the "experiment" was to prove any positive outcome was the result of prayer, so the "actual mechanism is not important" concession makes the original purpose moot. But second, even the outcomes themselves are questionable because of the methodological problems I pointed out earlier. I took a lot of time on this, abut it's probably useless. Anyone who would trumpet a link to
a new site which contains the same thing already discussed and rejected is probably not ready to follow a complex line of reasoning.

baronvonreich
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baronvonreich 08/13/10 - 01:41 pm
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I wonder if Tigger prays for

I wonder if Tigger prays for Congress to lower taxes and Congress re-issues the Bush tax cuts, then if prayer has a scientifically significant effect on Congress?
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Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 08/13/10 - 01:52 pm
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EEL wrote: . . . which

EEL wrote:

. . . which concluded every study purporting to link prayer with healing has been rejected as fatally flawed as science. . . .

Let's face it. There will always be somebody to reject every study ever published. You cannot use rejection as a criteria to prove anything.

effete elitist liberal
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effete elitist liberal 08/13/10 - 02:13 pm
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Little Lamb: let me

Little Lamb: let me rephrase: . . . which concluded every study purporting to link prayer with healing has been rejected overwhelmingly by nearly every serious scientist as fatally flawed science. The studies rejected as purporting to be "science" were rejected by SCIENTISTS, not MSNBC liberal commentators, not Richard Dawkins, not Christopher Hitchens, and the reasons for rejection were always spelled out very clearly. In virtually every case the grounds for rejection were that the so-called studies deviated from protocols universally accepted by scientists. It turns out that almost every "study" claiming to show the efficacy of prayer was designed and carried out by a scientist who had deeply religious motives for doing the "experiment." The point? When a researcher is deeply invested in a particular outcome, for whatever reason, there should always be a healthy degree of skepticism when the study unsurprisingly shows just the outcome the researcher wanted!

GGpap
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GGpap 08/13/10 - 02:25 pm
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EEL, in reference to your

EEL, in reference to your comment on 10:14 AM, "the crowd was mostly middle-aged white women of ample girth, plus a few ernest-looking guys with buzz cuts." Perhaps the abundance of ladies in the crowd has soemthing to do with the fact that females make up 53.7% of the total Aiken population (males, 46.6%). LOL!

GGpap

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 08/13/10 - 03:02 pm
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EEL said: In virtually every

EEL said:

In virtually every case the grounds for rejection were that the so-called studies deviated from protocols universally accepted by scientists.

Then he said:

It turns out that almost every "study" claiming to show the efficacy of prayer was designed and carried out by a scientist who had deeply religious motives for doing the "experiment."

In the first place, there is absolutely nothing that is accepted "universally" by scientists. The second quote shows that some scientists have religious motives. Now, motives alone would not be cause for rejection of the data generated by the study.

carcraft
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carcraft 08/13/10 - 03:20 pm
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Little Lamb, is that like

Little Lamb, is that like scientists that believe deeply in global warming doing golbal warming research? LOL

effete elitist liberal
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effete elitist liberal 08/13/10 - 03:40 pm
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carcraft: You are correct:

carcraft: You are correct: the same scrutiny of the research of global warming researchers is indeed necessary. The same issue of disinterestedness applies. And you can bet that scientists who doubt the findings of some atmospheric studies investigate them carefully for methodological problems. The biggest "score" the anti-warmers have claimed for themselves recently was last year at one of the English universities. A recent report on that situation cleared that research completely for all reasonable, fair-minded people. Of course the erroneous critique came from scientists whose anti-warming beliefs raised the same problem of disinterestedness all over again!

corgimom
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corgimom 08/13/10 - 03:44 pm
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"Public bodies also could

"Public bodies also could invite a rotating group of clergy to give prayers, making it even more inclusive."

Wait till the Buddhist priest, the leader of the Muslim mosque, and the Hindu priest lead the prayers. Aiken County residents will really love them.

corgimom
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corgimom 08/13/10 - 03:47 pm
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Now, having a prayer rally

Now, having a prayer rally before the meeting is a great idea. So why don't they just do that?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 08/13/10 - 04:23 pm
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EEL wrote: A recent report on

EEL wrote:

A recent report on that situation cleared that research completely for all reasonable, fair-minded people.

Wow! That's one sided. If you accept the report, you are reasonable and fair-minded. If you reject it, you are unstable and bigoted. Is that supposed to be the accepted way to end debate?

MajorPaul
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MajorPaul 08/13/10 - 05:06 pm
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Due to a young lady in Utah

Due to a young lady in Utah who did not want to sing the names of Jesus or God in the school choir (a voluntary function by the way), the Supreme Court ruled that not organization which gets public funds can use the name of a deity in a way that makes anyone give honor, homage, or attention to said deity. OK, fine.
We need to change the calendar then. The vast majority of the month names and the days of the week give honor, homage, and attention to pagan deitys.
Why should I as a Christian be forced to acknowledge the sun god (Sunday) or the moon god (Monday) and so on?
For some reason the 1st Amendment has devolved into a separation from Christianity only, while any other religion can do what it wants to do.

effete elitist liberal
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effete elitist liberal 08/13/10 - 05:07 pm
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Little Lamb: Why don't you

Little Lamb: Why don't you read the history of the controversy, often referred to in the Right Wing press as "Climategate," involving researchers at the University of East Anglia, before you comment. Also read the report issued April 2010 by the independent Science Assessment Panel, which completely exonerated the university scientists. You might argue no review board is completely unbiased, but the Science Assessment Panel comes pretty close. Review all of this so you have even a modicum of information about the subject you are commenting on. Then read a recent column by Ross Douthat, a VERY conservative columnist with whom I almost never agree. In his piece on global warming, he said conservatives need to get past the issue of whether warming exists and has a large human component. That debate, he said, is over. The science is clear. Conservatives who insist that warming is not occurring, or that it's all natural, are just showing their ignorance. Douthat goes on to say the debate should move to what to do about it. He seems to side with those who say "do nothing, since warming is good." I don't buy the argument, but at least he and I now argue about real things. Why don't you join the real world, educate yourself, and then I will debate you. Just now, you are completely unprepared. Sorry!

ameliaf
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ameliaf 08/13/10 - 05:39 pm
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Well, I do like the idea of

Well, I do like the idea of rotating the prayer leaders among clergy of different faiths. I do think just offering Christian prayer is "establishing" a religion.

There are some quite lovely Buddhist prayers.

momster59
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momster59 08/13/10 - 07:48 pm
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amelia - an agnostic

amelia - an agnostic acquaintance wrote the most beautiful agnostic prayer, one of the most moving I've ever read.

disssman
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disssman 08/13/10 - 09:28 pm
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Augusta / Richmond County.

Augusta / Richmond County. The most religious little area in the entire USA. Why all the folks here are loving, caring, and friendly. And to prove it we make sure we have at least one LTE every day in our paper, devoted to explaining why we should be praying. Question is, what has prayer done for the last 2 thousand years or so. It really sounds like some folks are overloading on some of our esteemed televangelists, who BTW really need hefty donations to carry on the good work they have been doing for years. Where is brother Oral when we need him so, and who took my crystal cathedral of the air? Sunday morning popcorn time is just not the same without them.

impossible
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impossible 08/14/10 - 01:41 pm
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Mr.L.A.KegbratFriday, Aug. 13
Unpublished

Mr.L.A.KegbratFriday, Aug. 13 11:07 "group prayer is a form of mass psychosis. People who participate should be in mental institutions, not running our government." I do agree that those currently in power should be in jail or institutions instead of ruining our government.
Hey Keg, your comment must be the result of one of those scientific studies, theories or opinions you so like to worship. Like them, there is absolutely no evidence that the people you so detest are "running our government." In fact your adherents are running it - running it into the ground as we post.

impossible
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impossible 08/14/10 - 01:59 pm
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You are one slippery EEL.
Unpublished

You are one slippery EEL. Please site the proofs for the allegations in your last post. You cannot truthfully tell us the debate was closed out by his conclusions and that no one shot his conclusions out of the water. The majority currently ruling our nation, and their useful idiot supporters, desperately need crises, real or imagined, to frighten the ignorant of our population into accepting their immoral programs, pogroms and taxation. Of course, it's other people's money so who cares about confiscatory taxation! Unfortunately, the lemmings make up the majority of voters who swallowed Obama's rhetoric and still think it tastes good - except for the millions of unemployed - except for the unemployed oil workers who Obama unlawfully and cruelly deprived of employment by over-blowing the oil spill with the help of the major media.

baronvonreich
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baronvonreich 08/14/10 - 02:41 pm
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MajorPaul Friday, Aug. 13

MajorPaul Friday, Aug. 13 5:06 PM Due to a young lady in Utah who did not want to sing the names of Jesus or God in the school choir (a voluntary function by the way), the Supreme Court ruled that not organization which gets public funds can use the name of a deity in a way that makes anyone give honor, homage, or attention to said deity. OK, fine.
We need to change the calendar then. The vast majority of the month names and the days of the week give honor, homage, and attention to pagan deitys.
Why should I as a Christian be forced to acknowledge the sun god (Sunday) or the moon god (Monday) and so on?
For some reason the 1st Amendment has devolved into a separation from Christianity only, while any other religion can do what it wants to do.
---------------------------
What year again was it that the U.S. government created the calendar with names of the months and days? Wow.......

Skeptic83
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Skeptic83 08/15/10 - 09:36 am
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Regarding prayer in public

Regarding prayer in public forums:
I have lived in the middle east, and that region is a wonderful example of government not being separated from religion - the ill effects of non-separation of church and state are very apparent in the middle east. Anyone with any true understanding of the basis for our secular government, current affairs and world history who wishes to preserve American liberty should fight to keep any religious agendas, including prayer, out of ALL government/public sponsored meetings/venues.

Ultimately, prayer does not solve problems- knowledge and action do. There is no good, credible, reproducible scientific evidence that prayer is effective and common sense, logic, and experience show that outcomes are the same regardless of prayer (and may even be worse if an individual knows they are being prayed for- refer to the Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer/STEP- in fact, if one is aware of this study and continues to pray for someone, are they not being overtly malicious knowing they may be causing harm?).
Prayer may make some individuals feel better (similar to meditation, yoga, etc.) - which is absolutely fine and I would encourage it if it makes someone feel better. But they should do it on your their own time as it is a matter of individual conscience and it should not be mixed with ANY government activity.

People should also consider advice from the bible and "pray in secret" not in public or tax payer supported forums "like the hypocrites."

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