Michael Gaynor
Obama administration makes minister get court order to mention Jesus in Memorial Day prayer
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By Michael Gaynor
June 5, 2011

The Founders expected religious values to inform public policy and religious expression to be welcome in the public square and the religious clauses of the First Amendment were intended to assure that.

What is astonishing (and outrageous)is not that a federal judge (the honorable Lynn Hughes) ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot bar a Houston pastor from invoking Jesus Christ in a Memorial Day prayer, but that the Obama Administration forced the issue to be taken to court in what the United States Supreme Court once referred to as a Christian nation.

The Obama Administration had to be told that it was "forbidden from dictating the content of speeches — whether those speeches are denominated prayers or otherwise — at the Memorial Day ceremony of National Cemetery Council for Greater Houston."

Judge Hughes:

"The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat's notion of cultural homogeneity. The right of free expression ranges from the dignity of Abraham Lincoln's speeches to Charlie Sheen's rants."

"The Constitution does not confide to the government the authority to compel emptiness in a prayer, where a prayer belongs."

"The gray mandarins of the national government are decreeing how citizens honor their veterans. This is not a pick-up-your-trash sign; this is a we-pick-your-words sign."

Congratulations to Rev. Scott Rainey and Texas' Liberty Institute, a non-profit devoted to protecting freedoms and strengthening families, for doing what never should have been necessary to do.

Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer lamented: "There certainly is a climate in our country that precipitates" such things as attempts to prohibit a minister from mentioning Jesus in a prayer.

"Secularists and separationists are trying to push an agenda that is telling government that you can't have any religion in public," Mateer said.

Rev. Rainey, the lead pastor of the Living Word Church of the Nazarene, had given the Memorial Day invocation at the cemetery for the past two years and in each case mentioned Jesus Christ without incident.

The event is held at Houston National Cemetery, a public place, and run by a private group, the National Cemetery Council for Greater Houston.

This year Rev. Rainey was asked to submit his prayer for review and submitted a seven-paragraph prayer that spoke of God in a non-denominational way in the first five paragraphs and closed with a recitation of the Lord's Prayer and the line, "While respecting people of every faith today, it is in the name of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, that I pray. Amen."

Rainey was told that he would not be allowed to pray unless he removed references to one religion. Rainey appealed to the general counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs and its Deputy General Counsel, John Thompson, decided that "the ceremony will commemorate veterans of all cultures and beliefs, and the tone of remarks must therefore be inclusive."

Judge Hughes issued a temporary restraining order allowing the prayer to be recited as written.

Rev. Rainey's rraction: "While I am very disappointed we had to take legal action, I am glad that the judge agreed that removing Jesus' name from my prayer is unconstitutional. I am honored to be allowed to pray in the name of Jesus at this somber remembrance of our nation's fallen."

The Founders would be aghast.

The United States Constitution is dated "in the Year of our Lord."

That's Jesus, the first to pray the Lord's Prayer and the One in whose name Rev. Rainey intended to and ultimately did pray.

Perhaps Rev. Rainey's should have quoted John Quincey Adams!

On July 4, 1837, the 61st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Adams declared:

"Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day.

"Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the Progress of the Gospel dispensation?

"Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth?

"That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets 600 years before."

The Founders expected religious values to inform public policy and religious expression to be welcome in the public square and the religious clauses of the First Amendment were intended to assure that.

© Michael Gaynor

 

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)

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