1/23/2013 11:46:00 AM County Board brings prayer back into proceedings
Eileen Nimm Chronotype staff
Thirty-five people braved the bitter cold and a packed auditorium Monday night, Jan. 21 to urge the Barron County Board to continue its longstanding practice of praying at the start of its meetings. Following the public comment portion of the meeting, the County Board voted 27-0 to keep prayer on its agenda. Earlier last year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation threatened a lawsuit against the board if it continued with its invocation as part of government proceedings. The prayer was then moved to directly before the start of the meeting. The foundation responded with another letter stating that simply moving the prayer to before the meeting would not withstand constitutional challenge. The Executive Committee then met on the matter and voted to recommend to the County Board returning prayer to its agenda. The board has opened its meetings with an invocation led by Christian clergy since November 1957.
Overview During the public comment portion of Monday's meeting at least nine pastors from area churches, residents from Barron County and other counties and fathers and mothers urged the board to not give in to bullying and continue praying. They referred to President Barack Obama's inaugural speech that morning and said he'd asked God to bless the event and the nation. They read quotes from political leaders and quoted scripture, reverently reciting one portion with the speaker as she cited it. The full house heartily applauded every person who spoke during the hour-long public comment portion of the meeting. Board chairman Jess Miller kept the comments moving. The crowd was peaceable but firm in its conviction. The word, "Amen," often rose up from someone in the crowd. No one who spoke opposed the County Board continuing its practice of praying before its deliberations.
Public comment Steve Johnson of Cameron urged the board to continue praying and defending its constitutional right. He said if the board had to go to court over the matter, there were legal resources available at no cost. Senior pastor of Rice Lake's Maranatha Evangelical Free Church Dan Reid said President Obama took his oath of office earlier Monday with his hand resting on a Bible. "His inauguration ceremony was launched with a prayer of invocation and concluded with a prayer of benediction," said Reid. Other speakers said if it was good enough for Washington D.C., it was good enough for Barron County. Reid told the board that those invited to lead the prayer at board meetings should represent the county's diverse population. "Another way we exercise our freedom of religion in this country is to respectfully hear the prayers of those who may not share your particular faith tradition," he said. Retired Pastor John Erickson said, "A good majority of us wish for you to seek divine wisdom in carrying out your responsibilities and to keep prayer on your agenda." Pastor Steve Miller of Christ Lutheran Church of Pike Lake in Polk County, but who lives in Barron County, said Benjamin Franklin called for prayer every morning during the constitutional convention in July 1787. Rev. Greg Becker, assistant pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Turtle Lake said the nation has a rich history of prayer in public settings. He said the Supreme Court ruled that deliberative public bodies were not violating the First Amendment by praying. "Just because someone might feel offended doesn't mean that a constitutional violation has taken place," Becker said. Wayne Ryback of Chetek said the Rev. Martin Luther King was always outspoken in his defense of religion and its importance in the public forum. Rybock said King said, "'The church is the conscience of the state.'" Pastor Tylan Dalrymple of Christ Lutheran Church in Chetek and St. John's Lutheran Church in Cameron said George Washington was known for his prayer life and was referred to as "the man on his knees." Pastor Wayne Hall of Abundant Life Church in Cameron said it was sad that "a certain fringe group can seek to dictate its will to a majority of people in the county by use of intimidation." He said the foundation often goes after small municipalities with limited funds. Peter Wilson of Turtle Lake said audible prayer has been taken out of our schools. "And today our children are shooting each other." Joleen Helbig of Cumberland, who is the state coordinator for The National Day of Prayer said the organization has been challenged numerous times by the foundation. She said the organization's rights have been upheld because it is voluntary prayer, not mandatory. "So it is considered constitutional. Also you are not representing a state religion," said Helvig. "You're not mandating a particular religion or denomination."
Board discussion Following the public comment portion of the meeting, Supervisor Jim Reul asked County Board chair Jess Miller if the county could be held liable in continuing the prayer. Miller said Dodge County went through the same experience that Barron County was going through in 2009, and Dodge County prevailed. Miller said it was important to have a different pastor lead the invocation at each meeting. Supervisor Bill Koepp asked if leading the invocation was open to religious leaders other than Christian. County attorney John Muench said if any religious organization in the county wanted to request that it lead the invocation, the county did not have a rule preventing it. - - - - -
Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Article comment by:
'Its nice to see the council stick to their guns, and not fall for bullying by a few.'
sounds to me like the non christians, and devout christians who don't need wedge issues to divide us, are being bullied by the 'brave' board and chanting crowd. why not keep christ first, and simply keep the religion out of politics.
these ministers think they know it all, for their flocks maybe they do, but they do not speak for all denominations nor are they properly presenting what christ taught us.
they are weakening christ's message: Matthew 6 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
2“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.3“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,4so that your giving will be in secret and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
5“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.6“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013
Article comment by:
Hey Eddie, I found a couple of quotes you might enjoy too. "The government of the United States is acknowledged by the wise and good of other nations, to be the most free, impartial, and righteous government of the world but all agree, that for such a government to be sustained many years, the principles of truth and righteousness, taught in the Holy Scriptures, must be practiced." - Emma Willard
'And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of order, the Fountain of justice, and the Protector, in all ages of the world, of virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its government, and give it all possible success and duration, consistent with the ends of His providence." -John Quincy Adams
Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Article comment by:
It is probably very important that any religious prayer or thought or reflection be allowed for these board members.... I would hope that they gain by it. This board, who would destroy 'God's' earth for 'gold coins', will need every bit of help they can get... Are you listening, God? Heather Andersen/Town of Auburn/Chippewa County
Posted: Friday, January 25, 2013
Article comment by:
Randall R. Kniess
Mr. Edward Susterich, it looks like your comments and desires failed this time. We the People did not back down to a very small minority of ingrates and degenerates and stood up for what the Constitution actually states. Just what many of did pray for, but more importantly, stood up for. We too can be heard and can shake the Earth and Heaven!
Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Article comment by:
Edward, I was waiting for you and some of Annie Gaylor's atheistic friends to show up for some fireworks, but they all chickened out. Probably because the US Supreme Court always rules against these types of law suits so the FFRF stick to threats and if they do file law suits they end up loosing. I really don't understand whats the problem with asking for a little help from God like Washington, Lincoln, and others did before us. Its nice to see the council stick to their guns, and not fall for bullying by a few.