Constitutionality of Prayer (PDF)

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Author: Philip A. Griffin

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Philip  A.  Griffin  
424  Elaina  Lane    
Murfreesboro,  TN  37128  
On  Monday,  August  13th,  an  article  was  written  regarding  the  debate  and  controversy  
surrounding  a  recent  prayer  made  at  a  public  event  by  commissioner  Steve  Sandlin.  The  
Constitutionality  of  this  public  prayer  was  mentioned  several  times  within  this  article.  
The  legal  principles  on  which  our  country  was  founded  are  very  specific.  Though  rooted  in  
religious  philosophies  (most  notably  in  Puritanism)  the  Constitution  clearly  calls  for  freedom  
of  speech,  and  freedom  of  religion.  Questioning  the  constitutionality  of  Christian  prayers  
without  subjecting  atheist  practices  to  the  same  scrutiny,  seems  to  evidence  a  deeply  held  
political  bias.  The  purpose  of  this  letter  is  to  assert  that  individuals  should  maintain  their  
right  to  religious  freedom  which  allows  them  to  offer  public  prayer  as  an  act  of  free  speech.    
I  support  Commissioner  Steven  Sandlin’s  actions,  and  feel  that  he  was  well  within  his  rights  
to  offer  a  public  prayer  at  the  recent  dedication  of  Stewart’s  Creek  High  school.  Instead  of  
offering  the  recommended  moment  of  silence,  Sandlin,  as  an  alternative,  spoke  his  prayer  
out-­‐loud,  setting  a  powerful  precedent  for  the  next  generation.  Mayor  Burgess  succinctly  
elucidated  on  my  point  by  saying  that  “every  citizen  should  have  the  right  to  prayer  in  a  
public  manner  and  in  a  way  that  reflects  his  sincere  beliefs  about  his  relationship  with  his  
God”  (Burgess,  2013).  I  would  like  to  express  my  heartfelt  gratitude  to  Commissioner  Steve  
Sandlin,  and  those  who  follow  his  example.  To  pray  publicly  is  to  reject  the  zeitgeist  which  
insists  that  practicing  prayer  publicly  is  a  violation  of  the  rights  of  others.    
Public  prayers  were  not  an  issue  during  the  shooting  at  Sandy  Hook  Elementary,  nor  was  our  
nation  seemingly  offended  by  the  thousands  of  prayers  offered  up  by  elected  officials  and  
celebrities  for  the  victims  of  9/11.  In  fact,  in  the  wake  of  9/11  prayer  walls  sprung  up  all  over  
New  York  City.  Jewish  Yeshiva  students  kept  a  solemn  24  hour  watch  over  vans  containing  
the  remains  of  all  the  deceased,  despite  the  victims’  religious  affiliations.  
Even  though  Mayor  Bloomberg  banned  prayer  from  the  9/11  memorial,  scores  of  New  York  
Churches  opened  their  doors  to  the  faithful-­‐  providing  safety,  warmth,  and  sanctuary  in  a  
time  of  crisis.  Why  then,  should  the  dedication  of  a  new  building  create  such  unnecessary  
controversy?  Why  is  prayer  acceptable  during  times  of  extreme  national  duress,  but  then  
unacceptable  at  events  in  which  no  blood  has  been  shed?  This  dichotomy  seems  to  
represent  a  profoundly  alleged  partiality  within  the  average  American  psyche.  
The  University  president  of  Middle  Tennessee  State,  Sydney  McPhee  opened  a  chapel  for  
prayers  in  the  wake  of  9/11,  without  being  the  subject  of  such  vitriolic  criticism.  The  

president  of  the  University  specifically  requested  that  Brother  Tony  Hutson  of  Middle  
Tennessee  Baptist  Church  open  their  doors  for  the  specific  purpose  of  prayer.    
President  McPhee’s  request  that  Middle  Tennessee  Baptist  Church  be  made  available  for  
prayer  evidences  his  standpoint  regarding  the  ability  of  prayer  to  provide  catharsis,  comfort,  
and  emotional  support.  President  McPhee  saw  a  profound  need  within  his  student  body  
that  could  be  met  only  by  the  ministry  of  public  prayer.  Should  we  deny  students  this  
experience  because  some  claim  the  material  to  be  offensive?  MTSU  police  also  provided  
security  for  students  through  the  involvement  of  Middle  Tennessee  Baptist  Church.  The  
joint  efforts  of  church  and  state  provided  comfort  and  security  to  countless  individuals  in  
There  is  no  such  scrutiny  within  our  media  regarding  public  celebrations  of  Ramadan.  
Textbooks  now  forbidden  to  teach  Creationism  are  still  allowed  to  teach  Native  American  
creation  myths.  Why  should  Christianity  be  singled  out  for  criticism  and  exclusion?    
Rather  than  targeting  Commissioner  Steven  Sandlin  for  his  remarks,  he  should  be  praised  for  
safeguarding  his  right  to  free  speech  in  the  face  of  harsh  criticism.    
Philip  A.  Griffin  
President  &  CEO  
Griffin  Strategies  LLC  

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