Voice of the people: Margo Toledano




Day of Prayer within First Amendment 


The Dispatch's award of a "Rose to Starkville's Day of Prayer event" (Sunday, May 5) for holding the event on the grounds of a local church rather than on public property, implied a Thorn should be awarded to Columbus for its observance on the Courthouse grounds. The Dispatch instructs us that "when such events are held on public property, it unnecessarily violates" the First Amendment which "forbids Congress from promoting one religion over others." Wrong! In fact the First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Such a succinct declaration requires no paraphrasing or abbreviation. The National Day of Prayer is proclaimed annually by the President at the direction of Congress; it has been unsuccessfully challenged in court by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Which religion does the National Day of Prayer promote? Prayer is not specific to worship at church, synagogue, mosque, or elsewhere. Was Starkville's observance at a church a promotion of Christianity over other religions?  


A Rose to Columbus for recognizing religion does belong in the public square, and that observing the National Day of Prayer on Courthouse grounds is not an establishment of religion but is allowing the free exercise thereof in the tradition of President George Washington who proclaimed on October 3, 1789 that a day "be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be."  


Margo Toledano 






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