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Author Topic: Church and State
Alcon
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So, I was rewatching the video of Obama speaking to the gathering of House Republicans. They have a pretty blatant Christian prayer at the beginning of it. I missed that when I watched live. Aside from the fact that the prayer's content is pretty laughably political - in exactly the way the Republican's like it - why is there a Christian prayer being given at the beginning of a meeting of our government? What denomination was it? What about all the other religions? I mean, I know it's a meeting of House Republicans - and the Republicans have pretty much given themselves over to the Christian religious right. But... really? What happened to the separation of Church and State?

Yes, I do remember the prayer at the inauguration. I wasn't thrilled with that either. But I recognized it as a tradition at a big event. This... feels somehow different to me. This is a working meeting of our government. I don't think religion belongs here.

Here's the video at CSPAN:
http://www.c-span.org/Watch/Media/2010/01/29/HP/R/28993/President+Speaks+at+GOP+Retreat.aspx

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TomDavidson
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quote:
why is there a Christian prayer being given at the beginning of a meeting of our government?
I've said this before, and I'll say it again: because you cannot go wrong pandering to the idiot masses.
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Raymond Arnold
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My understanding (from an elementary school field trip) is that they rotate through Jewish, Muslim and Christian prayers. I have no idea how accurate that is and whether it applies specifically to the State of the Union.
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Stephan
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Apparantly they use different denominations regularly.

This one, two days ago, was done by a rabbi:

http://chaplain.house.gov/archive/index.html

As someone who no longer believes, it doesn't bother me as much as it did when I believed in a single religion. As long as no one is forced to say it, or they are starting a state religion, I'm fine. Its also their constituents. If they are seen as not being religious, they won't get re-elected. A gay hispanic muslim has a better chance at being president then an admitted atheist.

I had a principal my first year that started staff meetings with a prayer, ending with a "in the name of Jesus" remark. I never really liked it, but kept silent.

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DSH
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When did 'praying Christians' become 'idiot masses'?
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kmbboots
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I used to have a job where we started staff meetings with a prayer. It was, IMO, perfectly appropriate. I worked for a church.

ETA: to DSH - When we decide that everyone, regardless of their beliefs, must be subjected to our specific religious rituals.

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Strider
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quote:
Originally posted by DSH:
When did 'praying Christians' become 'idiot masses'?

Maybe Tom is referring not to "praying christians" but the large segment of our population that thinks we live in a christian nation and that christianity SHOULD be integrated with government.
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DSH
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Perhaps Strider, but the implication is that Christians are the idiots, and not the panderers

Tom?

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MattP
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Not Christians, just the people that think that it's important that their political leaders be conspicuous about their religiosity. In the US that happens to mostly be Christians just because that's the dominant religion.
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kmbboots
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I think that Tom was refering to the particular Chrisians who needed to be pandered to.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by Strider:
Maybe Tom is referring not to "praying christians" but the large segment of our population that thinks we live in a christian nation and that christianity SHOULD be integrated with government. [/QB]

Let me point out that there is a huge swath of middle ground between the positions that religion should be integrated with government, and that it has no place in the government.
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Strider
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Hey, I'm just deciphering Tom's comment! not making any of my own. [Smile]
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Samprimary
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the PROCEDURE is the result of pandering.
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DSH
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And I would argue that the procedure IS the pandering.
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SoberTillNoon
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I am in the Army and I find it absolutely appalling that before every single gathering of troops larger than a company there is a christian prayer. I have always found it a little disconcerting that people see these conflicts we are in as some sort of holy war, but this practice just reenforces that belief which is just irresponsible. Also, it makes me feel like I am part of a religious fighting force which just makes my skin crawl.
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TomDavidson
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Sam, DSH, there's no reason you can't both be right.
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Verily the Younger
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I'll come right out and say that religion has no place in government. There should be no official prayers at inaugurations or meetings, and there should be no military chaplains. The point of living in a secular republic is that the government gives no sanction to any faith. Religion should be a private matter, not a matter for the state to involve itself in.
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malanthrop
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Why do you swear on a bible in court? The founders realized that one's self interest alone wont keep them honest. Unfortunately, they couldn't imagine a day of a godless people. A selfish atheist will lie his ass off for his own self interest. I think our nation needs to strap legal witnesses into lie detectors....our founders believed swearing on the Bible would suffice....today we need lie detectors in a court room. The antiquated Bible and religious traditions are ineffective in our separation of church and state society.
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Mike
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quote:
A selfish person will lie his ass off for his own self interest.
There, fixed that for you.
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malanthrop
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Swearing on the Bible carried a weight beyond this life....to a believer. What assured their honesty? We still have these antiquated religious traditions within our government. Since we are no longer a Christian nation...we need to be a Lie Detector nation.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by SoberTillNoon:
Also, it makes me feel like I am part of a religious fighting force which just makes my skin crawl.

Bravo. It should and you are to be commended for this.
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Ace of Spades
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quote:
Originally posted by Mike:
quote:
A selfish person will lie his ass off for his own self interest.
There, fixed that for you.
It wasn't broken.
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Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by malanthrop:
Swearing on the Bible carried a weight beyond this life....to a believer. What assured their honesty?

Yet somehow atheists are less likely to lie when they begin by solemnly swearing or affirming that they will speak the truth. True story. At the same time, there are many who believe (or claim to believe) who even after swearing on a Bible would lie given the right circumstances, for good or for ill.

Does swearing have different degrees of effect for believers and non-believers? Possible, but I suspect not. It'd be interesting to see a study done on this, but it would be extremely difficult to control adequately for priming effects.

Incidentally, I'm not sure why you keep talking about lie detectors. They are notoriously unreliable and most definitely do not belong in courtrooms, certainly at their current level of effectiveness.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by DSH:
And I would argue that the procedure IS the pandering.

I don't see the contradiction between yours and mine!
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BlackBlade
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Swearing on the Bible doesn't carry much interest for me. But the idea of removing army chaplains to me is too extreme. Soldiers have physical, mental, and in many instances spiritual needs. Some soldiers may gather in order to petition God to bless their "holy war," but just as many gather into smaller groups and simply pray that they will perform admirably, and that God will preserve their lives, and the lives of their family back home.

Though I myself pray in the name of Jesus Christ, I have no problem offering a prayer with a Muslim, or a Sikh, where I pray for things we would all mutually agree on, and simply end with Amen, invoking Jesus' name only in my mind afterward.

Soldiers routinely stare death in the face for a prolonged period of time over and over, and then come home. Chaplains, while certainly human and prone to making mistakes, can also do so much towards helping a soldier face those terrible realities he/she has witnessed and surmount them. The facilities available to soldiers dealing with post traumatic stress syndrome are already underdeveloped and underused. Chaplains have a long history with the armed forces, and hence are less of a stigma for soldiers copping with mental and spiritual anguish.

Prayers at the beginning of major governmental functions annoy or offend some, but so long as they are concise or prompt do they really just ruin anyone's day? Prayer is a tradition thousands of years old, for many people praying is like meditating, a way to focus on the task at hand, while flushing out all the distractions that might impeded performance.

If major functions were commenced with a moment of meditative silence I don't see how that would much different, beyond being alittle less noisy. Prayer is even more useful as a means to draw those who can at least agree on the existence of God together, it isn't designed to alienate atheists, I've never uttered a prayer in public and thought, "I sure hope those non-believers feel isolated." No offense is intended for those who do not believe in the efficacy of prayer, so why take any?

I could understand it if say the religious were cursing atheists or those of other religions and thus creating a rift, or if prayer was in some way so encumbering to the job at hand that it was a serious obstacle. But so long as it isn't, I say that if you don't believe in God, that's fine, do something else that is not disruptive while others briefly attempt to address their creator, hoping they will do right by him/her.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by malanthrop:
Since we are no longer a Christian nation...

You think we ever were? Lol. Mal, the things you don't know constantly surprise me.
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TomDavidson
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quote:

Prayers at the beginning of major governmental functions annoy or offend some, but so long as they are concise or prompt do they really just ruin anyone's day?

They certainly CAN, insofar as they serve as a reminder of vocal contingencies who'll be evaluating your public policy through the lens of their mythology.
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Verily the Younger
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
Soldiers have physical, mental, and in many instances spiritual needs. Some soldiers may gather in order to petition God to bless their "holy war," but just as many gather into smaller groups and simply pray that they will perform admirably, and that God will preserve their lives, and the lives of their family back home.

And they're more than welcome to do it privately. There's no reason it needs to be institutionalized.

quote:
The facilities available to soldiers dealing with post traumatic stress syndrome are already underdeveloped and underused.
And is an area that needs to be heavily focused on. That has nothing to do with religion.

quote:
Prayers at the beginning of major governmental functions annoy or offend some, but so long as they are concise or prompt do they really just ruin anyone's day?
It's not about ruining anyone's day. It's about the government giving official support to an institution of religion, which it is not supposed to do.

quote:
Prayer is a tradition thousands of years old
So what? Two points on this. First, human sacrifice is also a tradition thousands of years old, one every bit as indelibly linked to religion as is prayer, and yet I doubt you would endorse beginning official government functions with it for that reason. Secondly, no one is arguing for the abolition of prayer itself. People who have the wish to pray are more than welcome to do so on their own time. I don't care that their tradition is thousands of years old. That does not mean it has any place in the official government functions of a secular republic.

quote:
Prayer is even more useful as a means to draw those who can at least agree on the existence of God together
Unless they disagree on when God wants them to pray, and in what way, and in what contexts, which inevitably they will, since, even though every faith claims to know God's mind, no two can precisely agree on what it is he wants. And even for the denominations whose praying methods are compatible, what the hell does that have to do with government functions? I say again, religious people can pray on their own time. The government is not supposed to give any support or any hindrance to any faith whatsoever.
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SoberTillNoon
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it is my position that they should outlaw any mention of religion by a candidate or their supporters on the candidate's behalf during a campaign as well in any official gov't function.

To Marcus: Sadly, I will never be commended for this and in reality if it were made common knowledge that I was an atheist I probably would never be promoted beyond the rank of MAJ if I got that far.

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Verily the Younger
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quote:
Originally posted by SoberTillNoon:
it is my position that they should outlaw any mention of religion by a candidate or their supporters on the candidate's behalf during a campaign as well in any official gov't function.

I wouldn't go that far. A candidate has the right to talk about their religion if they honestly feel it's important to them. But it's asinine that they should feel it obligatory to do so, or to pay lip service to being religious if they actually aren't. But that will have to change through social means, not legislation.
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SoberTillNoon
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I would go that far because it has gotten to the point that candidates are being elected on their religious beliefs and that is exactly what the constitution wanted to prohibit.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by SoberTillNoon:
... I probably would never be promoted beyond the rank of MAJ if I got that far.

Thats fairly disappointing. Especially when the enemy is already taking advantage of describing the US as being on a religious crusade (as a recruiting tool), the last thing that should happen is to go ahead and actually validate it.
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Alcon
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Mal, the fact that you would discount my solemn word just because I do not believe in any deity breaks my heart. I have tried my entire life to support truth and honesty above all other values. I never purposefully lie. Even in situations where it would save feelings, I have difficulty even with-holding the truth or much less telling the white lie. And bigger lies - forget it. I can't do it. I don't do it.

I am an atheist.

If you think that mere fact means I'm more likely to lie... then I know a whole host of people you need to be introduced to.

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T:man
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quote:
Originally posted by malanthrop:
Since we are no longer a Christian nation...we need to be a Lie Detector nation.

We were a christian nation? When? I think I need to talk with all of my history teachers! Thought they could pull a fast one on T:man did they?!
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Tresopax
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quote:
I'll come right out and say that religion has no place in government. There should be no official prayers at inaugurations or meetings, and there should be no military chaplains. The point of living in a secular republic is that the government gives no sanction to any faith.
One can't exactly remove religion from government. Questions of right and wrong lie behind many issues the government faces. Should we help the poor or not? Should we care about the wellbeing of people in Haiti or not? If the true answers to those questions stem from religious values, or if the people we have elected to represent us (or the people we've drafted to defend us) believe the true answers to those questions stem from religious values, then we can't remove religion from government anymore than we can remove the laws of physics from government. It would just be a sham to pretend otherwise.

What we can remove from government is the direct influence of religious organizations on lawmaking, laws the restrict believing or nonbelief, or any official sanction of a given religion above other religions. Saying a prayer before a government meeting would not entail any of those - particularly if different religious denominations conduct the prayer at different meetings.

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Raymond Arnold
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Tres, you are completely missing the point. Helping the poor is not a question that needs to have any relevance to religious values whatsoever. Atheists donate all the time because of basic human empathy and because it makes the world a better place and for a bunch of other possible reasons. Claiming that right and wrong hinge on religious beliefs (you try to back away from this point halfway through your post, but it's still clearly there) is genuinely offensive in addition to being wrong.

There may be some people whose religious values tell them they should help the poor. There may be other people with religious values that tell them they shouldn't, or that they should or shouldn't help minorities or women or whatever.

It is not the government's job to decide which religious groups' definition of right will be enforced. It is also not the government's job to promote any particular religion and thus make people who are not part of that religion feel underrepresented.

It is the government's job to make logical, justifiable decisions about the welfare of the nation.

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Alcon
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quote:
if the people we have elected to represent us (or the people we've drafted to defend us) believe the true answers to those questions stem from religious values
In other words, if our elected officials are religious and their values stem from their religion then religion cannot be removed from government. True that.
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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by Verily the Younger:
There should be no official prayers at inaugurations or meetings, and there should be no military chaplains.

Bull. I was in the Army, and while I am not overly religious, the chaplain was a crucial part of being in the field. I soldier gives up a lot of freedoms, but his religion is not one of them.

You don't like it, YOU go in the field and risk your life for us.

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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by SoberTillNoon:
I would go that far because it has gotten to the point that candidates are being elected on their religious beliefs and that is exactly what the constitution wanted to prohibit.

No, it isn't. Show me where it says that.


Religious freedom was meant to protect people's right to believe in whatever religion they chose, and to prevent an official religion of the USA from being chosen. The founders most certainly did not have any idea of what WE consider separation of Church and State in this day and age.


Your beliefs are as valid as mine regarding religion, but do not supersede my right to believe as I choose, and my right to free speech means I am allowed to discuss my views on it. Any law preventing that would be struck down as unconstitutional.


Alcon, don't let it break your heart, it's only Mal. He thinks everyone who doesn't agree with him is lying about why, and has claimed on multiple occasions that his in the only right path.

I'd be more worried if he approved of you, quite frankly.

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Raymond Arnold
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Having had more time to think I would like to acknowledge that Tres DID have a point (that you can't divorce the religious beliefs from individual candidates, and those beliefs are going to impact their decisions one way or another). But I was busy being mad at the attempt to sneak in a "and morals hinge on religious beliefs" remark while simultaneously trying to say "Not that I necessarily think this, but other people do!"

And for the record, I'm fine with candidates acknowledging their beliefs. The fact that admitting to atheism would be political suicide is bad, but something that has to be fixed over time with society as a whole. Getting rid of religion's ubiquitous place in government (in the form of "In god we trust," and "Under God," etc) wouldn't fix it overnight but it would help put atheism on an even footing.

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just_me
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
quote:
Originally posted by Verily the Younger:
There should be no official prayers at inaugurations or meetings, and there should be no military chaplains.

Bull. I was in the Army, and while I am not overly religious, the chaplain was a crucial part of being in the field. I soldier gives up a lot of freedoms, but his religion is not one of them.
I don't have a problem with military "chaplains" as long as they exist from a wide range of religions and are there to support soldiers at their option. There is no need for a single prayer before a large gathering (especially a mandatory one)... let the chaplains hold smaller prayer sessions prior to the event for those that wish to attend.

quote:
You don't like it, YOU go in the field and risk your life for us.
I really hate this kind of attitude. I understand the knee-jerk reaction to an "armchair quarterback" but our military is supposed to be fighting for the things our country is supposed to stand for... Our free speech and freedom of religion - as well as our protection from a state religion - are things our country is supposed to stand for. For anyone in our military to have the attitude of "enlist or shut up" is against the very reason we supposedly have a military, not to mention against the oath you swore when you joined - you know, the one that says you swear to uphold our Constitution.

So go ahead and make your case as to why the chaplain is important but please avoid the "I wore a uniform so I'm better than you" crap.

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Geraine
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Perhaps someone can point out to me where in the US Constitution or any amendments it talks about Church and State?

As far as I know the only time it was even mentioned was Thomas Jefferson in a letter to a Baptist church. In the letter he expressed the importance of not have a state church such as the Church of England. Nowhere in the letter does it talk about excluding God or religion from the government.

I'm interested in researching the history of how it has evolved to what it is now.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by just_me:
I don't have a problem with military "chaplains" as long as they exist from a wide range of religions and are there to support soldiers at their option. There is no need for a single prayer before a large gathering (especially a mandatory one)... let the chaplains hold smaller prayer sessions prior to the event for those that wish to attend.


It isn't "just you" in this case. [Smile] Chaplains are there to support soldiers and their families along with many other services - medical, psychological, financial, emotional, and so forth. They can be made available without being imposed.

For some people, their moral system is based on religion. For others, it is based on personal philosophy or moral reasoning or expediency or any number of things or combinations of those things.

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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
Perhaps someone can point out to me where in the US Constitution or any amendments it talks about Church and State?

As far as I know the only time it was even mentioned was Thomas Jefferson in a letter to a Baptist church. In the letter he expressed the importance of not have a state church such as the Church of England. Nowhere in the letter does it talk about excluding God or religion from the government.

I'm interested in researching the history of how it has evolved to what it is now.

The establishment clause of the first amendment was not intended to keep God out of government per se, however; when you have government-sanctioned prayers at official events you do tread dangerously close to giving tacit approval to one religion over another, which may be seen as a government endorsement of religion. There is a lot of gray area here, but while "separation of church and state" is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson that has been adopted by the general public, despite it not appearing in the constitution, if you read further into the letter you will find that he clearly states the purpose of that amendment. I can't recall exactly, but when he spoke of the wall of separation between church and state he specifically said that church could influence government, but not the other way around.

So the question is whether or not a government-sanctioned prayer at a meeting of congress is government influencing religion or religion influencing government?

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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by just_me:
quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
quote:
Originally posted by Verily the Younger:
There should be no official prayers at inaugurations or meetings, and there should be no military chaplains.

Bull. I was in the Army, and while I am not overly religious, the chaplain was a crucial part of being in the field. I soldier gives up a lot of freedoms, but his religion is not one of them.
I don't have a problem with military "chaplains" as long as they exist from a wide range of religions and are there to support soldiers at their option. There is no need for a single prayer before a large gathering (especially a mandatory one)... let the chaplains hold smaller prayer sessions prior to the event for those that wish to attend.

quote:
You don't like it, YOU go in the field and risk your life for us.
I really hate this kind of attitude. I understand the knee-jerk reaction to an "armchair quarterback" but our military is supposed to be fighting for the things our country is supposed to stand for... Our free speech and freedom of religion - as well as our protection from a state religion - are things our country is supposed to stand for. For anyone in our military to have the attitude of "enlist or shut up" is against the very reason we supposedly have a military, not to mention against the oath you swore when you joined - you know, the one that says you swear to uphold our Constitution.

So go ahead and make your case as to why the chaplain is important but please avoid the "I wore a uniform so I'm better than you" crap.

I never said anything about better than you, that's your own beliefs speaking. I DO believe that before you take away actual Constitutional rights away from the people who actually serve in combat you would have a better understanding of what they go though, and I don't believe that it is possible for someone comfortably typing at a computer do know what that is like unless they did it themselves.

You advocated removing one of the most time honored and important military jobs, one that is constantly and consistently rated critical to morale and performance, with no experience, no personal stake at risk, and no actual idea of what they do for soldiers. The fact of the matter is that there are chaplains of many different denominations, and 99% of their duties DO involve small prayer groups and individual meetings.

You aren't stupid (nor would I ever claim you were), but you are woefully ignorant of what they do, how they do it, and why it is important. I was in the Army for 3 years, and I probably heard 3 prayers at large meetings total, if even that many. One person's experience doesn't mean every post is like that. Hell, it may not even mean THAT post is actually like that.

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just_me
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quote:
I never said anything about better than you, that's your own beliefs speaking.
OK... sorry if I read too much into your words or misinterpreted you. I was speaking from my past experience (with others saying similar things, not with you specifically) and should not have automatically lumped you in. I apologize.

quote:
I DO believe that before you take away actual Constitutional rights away from the people who actually serve in combat you would have a better understanding of what they go though, and I don't believe that it is possible for someone comfortably typing at a computer do know what that is like unless they did it themselves.
What actual Constitutional right? Where in the constitution is the right of access to clergy? I don't think anyone is saying that we should be taking away anyones right to worship as they choose, but there is some question as to whether is is appropriate that the government provide religious leaders.


quote:
You advocated removing one of the most time honored and important military jobs
I think if you go back and read my post you will see I never advocated anything. In fact my exact words were I don't have a problem with military "chaplains"a s long as they exist from a wide range of religions and are there to support soldiers at their option.

I never claimed to know anything about exactly the role a chaplain plays in the Army. I merely laid out the parameters of when I would/wouldn't be OK with something. If you're telling me the current operation of the Army meets those parameters then obviously I'm fine with it. That was the whole point of using the conditional to begin with.

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Geraine
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quote:

So the question is whether or not a government-sanctioned prayer at a meeting of congress is government influencing religion or religion influencing government? [/QB]

How about neither? Is the prayer's purpose to convert? Not likely. Is the purpose to form a state church? Nope. I think it is safe to say that a government sanctioned prayer is not being used to further either establishments ends.

It is a tradition. As someone mentioned earlier, they rotate the types of prayers that are said each time.

I believe there is an annual breakfast each year at the White House that brings religious leaders from all across the US together. I don't see anything wrong with this.

Thomas Jefferson said his statement in a letter. As far as I know, he never implemented or brought these concerns up in an official capacity. This means it was a belief of his. If he made an official statement to Congress or as President of the United States, I'd love to read it.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
As someone mentioned earlier, they rotate the types of prayers that are said each time.
They should also rotate in not saying any prayers. [Smile]
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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
quote:

So the question is whether or not a government-sanctioned prayer at a meeting of congress is government influencing religion or religion influencing government?

How about neither? Is the prayer's purpose to convert? Not likely. Is the purpose to form a state church? Nope. I think it is safe to say that a government sanctioned prayer is not being used to further either establishments ends.
Why all this talk about intentions?

How about, rather than putting yourself in the shoes of the believer in the religious majority, and trying to figure out what the person in the majority would feel, put yourself in the shoes of the religious minority, and imagine how they would feel. The one who contantly hears from the media, and even politicians, that s/he's not a "real American", because they don't believe the same things that "real America" is based on.

Would you really feel that you as a citizen were being respected fully if every day, you were reminded that everyone held religious beliefs that were deemed worthy of public acknowledgement and celebration except for you?

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Dobbie
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
As someone mentioned earlier, they rotate the types of prayers that are said each time.
They should also rotate in not saying any prayers. [Smile]
They spend almost all of their time not saying any prayers.
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