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Buddhism in the News


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Freedom of Religion a Myth?

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Tuesday from a Wiccan priestess angry that local leaders would not let her open their sessions with a prayer.

Instead, clergy from more traditional religions were invited to pray at governmental meetings in Chesterfield County, Va., a suburb of Richmond.

Simpson sued and initially won before a federal judge who said the county's policy was unconstitutional because it stated a preference for a set of religious beliefs.

Simpson lost at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the county had changed its policy and directed clerics to avoid invoking the name of Jesus.

Lawyers for Cynthia Simpson had told justices in a filing that most of the invocations are led by Christians. Simpson said she wanted to offer a generalized prayer to the "creator of the universe."

The county (GOI: Government) "issues invitations to deliver prayers to all Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders in the country. It refuses to issue invitations to Native Americans, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Wiccans, or members of any other religion," justices were told in her appeal by American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Rebecca Glenberg.

GOI: I don't get this decision on several points. First, This Simpson lady said she wanted to offer a generalized prayer to the "creator of the universe." She was clearly in keeping with the counties policy that "directed clerics to avoid invoking the name of Jesus."

Second, It seems obvious to me that the county should either allow a different religion to pray every time or not offer a prayer at all but then again maybe that makes too much sense. I just happen to be a Buddhist and I guess my religion is not a "traditional religion" despite the tradition of Buddhism being older then Christianity (scratches head).

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Nacho said...

James! How are you? : ) I remember posting on this issue a while back, and when I saw the results I was going to post again at WV. Glad you did it here. I don't get the decision either. It seems completely topsy turvy to me. It upholds excessive entanglement, it discriminates against other religious beliefs, it reaffirms a clear preference... I'm flabbergasted that the Court would allow such a policy to stand, especially when it is very clear that such a preference is discriminatory against many citizens.

Why governmental meetings in Chesterfield County, VA need to start with a prayer is another issue that will not get addressed.

I must admit that this is one of my pet peeves. You'd think we can find better things to do than for local elected officials to discriminate against folks of religions other than Judaism, Islam, or Christianity.

I'll be posting on this soon also, as part of a roundup of Humanist non-theist news. Thanks again James. I hope you are well!

Tricycle Blog said...

Just another reminder that our freedoms aren't really "rights" floating out there in the universe, but sites of struggles with which we must remain engaged if we hope to enjoy them.

"James" said...


I'm doing o.k., I've been depressed the last day and a half but that is the way life goes sometimes.

I too am flabbergasted with the court and I worry where SCOTUS is headed with this current nomination.

I must admit that this issue is one of my pet peeves too. It seems like such an easy issue to find balance and the middle way with.

I look forward to reading your roundup post!!

How are you doing??

Tricycle Blog:

Yes, a strong reminder that we must never take our freedoms for granted.

Jennifer said...

Personally, if all religions can't be represented, then I feel there should be no prayers at all at these meetings, and wonder why there are anyway?? But, I must say, the wiccan religion does attract a lot of kooks, really loud in-your-face types who are into it more for the shock value, for the illusion of power, for the black wardrobe, etc. These tend to be the most verbal of the wiccans, they read a few books and suddenly know it all. And of course there is the thing about most people not believing in witches, that might have something to do with it...Now I know some very spiritual pagans and I do respect their faith..but sadly, those are not the people that the average person thinks of when you say wicca today. So it doesn't surprise me that the religion is not taken seriously....would all this have happened if a buddhist or Native American had come forward and asked to pray before the meeting? Maybe not.

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