Cumberland Times-News


August 12, 2013

Too Christian?

Ruling on legislative prayer should be clarified

When the Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that state legislatures could open their sessions with prayer, the justices probably had no idea how that ruling would be so misconstrued in subsequent years.

The court was straightforward in its ruling, deciding that legislative prayers are OK as long as they do not proselytize, advance or disparage any one religion. In the years since, politicians and citizens have challenged what prayers can be said, who can say them and whether prayers should be screened in advance.

The Supreme Court is once again embroiled in the controversy. This time by way of an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief filed by 23 states asking the high court to overturn a Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that declared a New York town’s practice of opening its legislative sessions with prayer as violating the First Amendment Establishment Clause.

The West Virginia legislature begins its session with prayer. So does the Maryland Senate. But prayer by the Maryland House of Delegates differs from most statehouses across the country. Instead of clergy offering the prayers in the Maryland House, the politicians themselves handle the duty. They began the practice about a decade ago when some delegates complained the prayers had become “too Christian.”

West Virginia joined the brief filed with the Supreme Court but Maryland did not. That is too bad. Maryland lawmakers clearly need the Supreme Court to reexamine the whole prayer question and come down with a more definitive ruling.

In commenting on the high court brief, Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia Attorney General, commented: “West Virginia and other states filed this brief because opening a legislative session with prayer dates back to the founding of our republic. West Virginia has a proud tradition of beginning a public meeting with a time for prayer, and I believe this practice should continue and the expression of faith should not be quashed.”

If legislative bodies stick with the original intent of the Supreme Court’s ruling that prayer does not proselytize, promote or disparage any particular religion, the practice should be permitted. It is when people stray from those instructions that the issue becomes murky.


Text Only
  • Wildfires Wildfires

    The huge woods fire in nearby Pennsylvania shows just how much devastation can take place when a blaze breaks out during early spring. In this case, 900 acres of forest — much of it public game land — became engulfed in flames.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Street flowers Street flowers

    Walk along Frostburg’s Main Street in the spring and summer and one can’t miss the beautiful floral arrangements that adorn the lampposts.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • First base First base

    The idea of spending up to $7,500 for a study about the possibility of bringing a minor league baseball team to the area should at least be allowed to reach first base.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Restore them Restore them

    There are an estimated 47,000 deceased veterans whose remains are unidentified and unclaimed throughout the U.S. A group of senators and congressmen hope to do something to
    bring these men and women some dignity after death.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Support the March for Babies May 3 at Canal Place

    At the March of Dimes, we promise to work tirelessly toward the day when all babies are born healthy.
    The March of Dimes has worked for more than 75 years to help babies get a healthy start in life.

    April 20, 2014

  • Happy Easter

    For the world’s more than 2 billion Christians, Easter is the day that defines their faith.
    The exact date of Christ’s resurrection is unknown, and even the precise locations of his crucifixion and burial are uncertain. This hasn’t stopped some people from saying they know the answer to these questions and others from trying to find out for themselves, or simply arguing about it.

    April 20, 2014

  • We concur We concur

    We’re certain that Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, echoes what many Americans feel about the complexity of filing income tax returns.
    When he filed his return, Rumsfeld sent the following letter to the Internal Revenue Service:

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • The first step The first step

    If all goes as planned, Frostburg State University will one day offer a doctorate in nursing, a physician’s assistant program and a new health sciences building on campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Where to look Where to look

    Drive anywhere in Maryland and it seems there is one highway construction project after another. While it is good to see our roads and bridges being upgraded, it can be nerve-wracking for anyone traveling a long distance.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Library week

    Public libraries remain one of the best uses of taxpayer dollars. They are open to all. Young or old, poor or wealthy, residents can use computers and read current magazines and newspapers. Compact discs featuring a wide variety of music and
    movies on DVD may be checked out in addition to novels and other books.

    April 13, 2014