Public Prayer is Part of our Freedom
from the Morning Sentinel and the Kennebec Journal ....
Our religious freedom is exercised in public prayer
Pastor Bob Emrich, of Plymouth,
In writing "Public Statements that Favor one Religion Offend our Freedoms" (June 20), David Offer misinformed the public. Public prayer and public statements of faith are common throughout our history.
It is ironic that Offer wrote "freedom of religion -- a right guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution -- means that government cannot support, sponsor, favor or prohibit any form of religion" in the context of denying that same religious freedom to Mrs. LePage. Offer criticizes her involvement in the National Day of Prayer which was not an official or government sponsored event.
Offer has the right to claim "Government should not support official prayers." But his claim is contrary to the entire scope of United States and Maine history. Even the process of writing our national constitution was interrupted with official times of prayer. The Declaration of Independence includes the language of prayer, claiming that "for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence..."
In 1820, our first governor, William King, speaking to the first Legislature publically and officially, practiced freedom of religion when he spoke of the creation of the state of Maine as, "events for which you no doubt as well, as our fellow citizens in general, will acknowledge with gratitude that divine goodness, which directs and controls the concerns of men."
He was followed by Gov. William D. Williamson, who wrote, in an official proclamation, "while we with united voice and songs of praise make mention of the loving kindness of our God; let us with heartfelt penitence and deep humility confess our transgressions before Him, and fervently beseech Him to pardon us through the mediation of His Son Jesus Christ, who having tasted death for every man, has become the Author of everlasting redemption to all them who obey him."
As governor of Maine, Edwin G. Burleigh wrote that "respect for the religious customs and forms held in veneration by successive generations is a patriotic duty which good citizens and their chosen agents will always faithfully regard." He also wrote that "in thus acknowledging that religion is the foundation of the State, while we humbly confess our sins and solicit Divine forgiveness, we follow in the footsteps of our ancestry who did so much to bequeath to us the priceless blessings of free and Christian government."
Gov. Frederick Robie called upon Maine citizens to "be ever guided by the teachings of the Christian Religion..."
Gov. Samuel Cony officially invited the people of Maine to bow "before Him in a contrite and humble spirit, confess our manifold transgressions, and invoke His pardon through the grace of His Son." Gov. Joseph H. Williams called upon Maine citizens to "humble ourselves before our Maker and mourn that we too have proved so recreant to the unselfish principles which should be the glory of a truly Christian Commonwealth."
One of Maine's most beloved heroes and former governors, Joshua Chamberlain was very specific in his official call to prayer.
He wrote: "I earnestly request the people of this State to devote the day to the serious duties it enjoins; that by meditation, penitence and prayer, and recognizing our utter need of His saving power in Christ, we may so humble ourselves before God, as to be spared the chastisement which our sins deserve, and obtain the blessings of His grace upon ourselves, our country, and our fellow men."
There is a subtle arrogance about a new generation denying our collective need for dependence upon Almighty God and the freedom to seek His favor without the filter of political correctness.
I suspect that most prayers are spoken in houses of worship or private homes. But the call to restrict prayers to those locations is an offense to our history and heritage. It is wrong to "prohibit the free exercise" of religion, even if that religion is that of Christian people. Even if the "exercise thereof" is in the form of public prayer by well-known persons.