To The Editor:
We appreciate your coverage of the debate over invocations before meetings of the Franklin County Commission. However, we must disagree with your recent editorial accusing the commission of poor judgement in their handing of this matter.
In leading a prayer before meetings of the county commission, Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer was doing what public officials have been doing in this republic since the days of our Founding Fathers: asking for God’s wisdom and guidance in the deliberations they were to undertake.
The longstanding practice of solemnizing public meetings in such a way has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as a constitutional component of the fabric of our society. In the 1983 case of Marsh v. Chambers, the high court ruled that is is not an “establishment of religion” to invoke divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws.
Unfortunately, in recent years, anti-religious groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State have created confusion as to the constitutionality of public invocations, despite the fact that a majority of federal appeals courts have affirmed this practice. Just as in the case of Franklin County, they seek to drag public entities through protracted litigation in the hopes of collecting extravagant attorney’s fees.
Members of the Franklin County Commission showed good judgment and collective wisdom in developing a formal prayer policy that ensures that invocations continue to be offered in constitutionally permissible fashion. The new policy enables ministers and clergypersons from the community to participate in invocations, while complying with Supreme Court stipulations that they neither proselytize on behalf of their religion, nor disparage any other religious faith.
Commissioners Griesheimer, Wilson and Schroeder have exemplified sound leadership and prudent judgment on this volatile issue, and should be commended, rather than chastised, for their conduct.