The Miami-Dade County Commission’s 8-3 decision to reinstate spoken prayer before its official meetings is sparking passionate responses on both sides of the issue.
A sponsor of the bill to bring back spoken prayer, Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, called it a matter of "freedom of speech," while Commissioner Sally Heyman, part of the trio opposed to the measure, said it was "unfair to members of the community to be subjected to a religious point of view." Since 2004, the commission has opened its meetings with a moment of silence during which commissioners and the public could do as they pleased.
Some members of our Public Insight Network were baffled by the decision. Elizabeth from Homestead, who says her religion has a “great deal” to do with her daily life, thinks that commission action
was an unnecessary ‘feel good’ decision. If prayer were the issue, what was wrong with allowing them to pray privately during a moment of silence?
Lauren from Miami, a teacher at a Catholic school, echoes that question and adds:
There is nothing discriminatory about allowing a moment for silent prayer. Prayer, in its essence, should be a private affair between the individual and the higher power that they believe in.
Ellen, a public school teacher from Aventura, notes that even that moment of silence has increasingly been called a “moment of silent meditation.” She worries that the commission’s action is a step “down that slippery slope of prayer in schools and other public places.”
People opposed to the prayer decision were particularly concerned about the main proponent of the measure, the Christian Family Coalition, which lobbied intensely for the past year and a half for the change. Ginger from Miami says that the commission’s action
will invite lawsuits since…this was brought up to the commission by the Christian Family Coalition, which has a clear agenda to bring religion into government; specifically Christianity. We are a diverse nation and community and not a “Christian” nation.
Many complain that the Commission action is an example of incompetence and failure to focus on the right priorities.
But that is exactly why the measure is necessary, supporters say.
Norma from Homestead says that prayer gives her
wisdom to face the daily challenges. With all that's happening in our society today, perhaps going back to basics would be a good thing. This great Nation was founded on basic principles - God,Honor and Country.. Time to put things in perspective, sort of speak, without offending anyone's beliefs.
Robert from Miami says, “[prayer] will return the concept of a greater good to our representatives in government.” Felipe from Cutler Bay agrees, “The open tendency of our society lately is to eradicate spiritual manifestations from the culture.”
On that point, Brenda from Cutler Bay somewhat agrees. The separation of church and state has sometimes gone too far, leading to the banishment of nativity and Hanukkah decorations and prompting discussions of eradicating “In God We Trust” from our national currency. But, she writes, the action was not a good use of tax dollars when “there are more pressing issues at hand.”
Fortunately, additional tax dollars for defense in a lawsuit aren't necessary yet. The ACLU of Florida says it will wait to see how the spoken prayer is implemented before filing.