Tag Archives: invocation

Fair is Fair

A familiar image popped up on my Facebook feed, shared by a reasonable conservative friend, sourced from a page of patriots dedicated to opposing “Jihad.”

So I wasn’t surprised to find a misleading story:

Post whatever you like on a political issue. You're practically guaranteed no one will look it up.
Post whatever you like on a political issue. You’re practically guaranteed no one will look it up.

I knew I’d seen this image before, and had even responded to the panicked fear-mongering, the dire sense of impending doom, the overwrought feeling of “what has our country come to?”

Yet here it was again.

Out of a foolhardy need to correct people on the Internet, I clicked “Show all comments” on the thread. The reactions were explosive. A few, in bold, are presented below, along with my thoughts on their points:

Anyone who didn’t walk out is a traitor to the oath they swore when they were elected.

Actually, they’re upholding the importance of pluralism and diversity, and ensuring that our government isn’t misunderstood to be promoting or respecting a particular religion over all others. By supporting this, they’re doing exactly what they swore to do. And to be fair, selection of pray-ers is probably pretty transparent and unrelated to almost everyone in either body of Congress.

How can they say separation of church and state about schools and government offices when they’re forcing the Islamic ideology on the House of Representatives?

Because the prayer fits that gray area where no religion is being forced or pushed upon any individual, no one is being forced to participate in a religious act, and no implication of government respect or disrespect is shown for a particular religion in relation to all others.

If Obama wants them to have an Islamic prayer, then he has to let them have Christian prayers too. He never will, but he should. Fair is fair. 

If fair is fair, then we probably owe Islamic clerics far more opportunities to conduct the prayers, not less. 

The timing seems highly suspect, coming right off the heels of the tragedy in Orlando. It’s pretty obvious what Obama’s trying to say here.

Well, the video is actually from late 2014–note the presence of John Boehner as Speaker of the House, which, by the way, is a Legislative body controlled by Republicans at that point, and not part of President Obama’s Executive branch.  So the President had nothing to do with it now, nor did he back then. But for whatever reason this page decided to post it like it happened yesterday. You’re right, the timing is suspect… but not in the way you think.

This post highlights a level of ignorance many Americans may have about what happens every time our representatives meet. I didn’t know all this until looking into a similar post a few months back, so I assume maybe others also don’t know.

The House of Representatives has a chaplain who conducts an invocation or prayer at the start of every session, and this practice has taken place since 1789. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of prayers offered are Christian in nature.

The first Islamic invocation was conducted in 1991, and several have occurred since then, once every couple years or on some occasions twice in one year.

Other religions have also been represented, but sparsely. Jewish prayers account for 2.7% of all invocations in the last fifteen years. Hindus have occasionally offered prayers (once every six years or so since 2000, near as I can tell).  Islam and Hinduism are tied at about 0.5% of the invocations in that 15 year period.

That data came from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who pointed out that 97% of prayers in Congress in the last 15 years  are Christian in nature. And yet no form of atheism, secularism or humanism has been given a chance to conduct anything resembling an invocation. “Of course not,” one might say, “they’re not a religion.” But there are values which most atheists or humanists espouse, and there are options that would permit inclusion and participation of a group that is currently excluded, without putting down religious beliefs or pushing a non-faith ideology on anyone–in the same way that Christian prayers can be offered without violating the separation of church and state. (But when someone tried to nominate a secular person to perform the invocation, that request was denied.)

Back to the original point.

The problem is, a page with an agenda can depict this subject in a frightening or conspiratorial light. President Obama is blamed for this as though he directly scheduled this cleric to pray and as if he has banned any other forms of prayer–neither of which are true.

Simply put, a little bit of research goes a long way to defusing tensions, enlightening minds, broadening perspectives, and understanding differences. Taking the time to dig a little deeper and discover the truth keeps us from going off the deep end or responding in fear toward someone we don’t agree with. It helps unite us in a time when our culture and country is starkly divided.

Instead of seeing the worst, we can seek and discover the best about others. Instead of presuming or pre-judging, we can come to know others as they are, just like we’d hope to be treated if the roles were reversed.

That seems pretty fair.