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Posted: 6/27/2008 8:36:21 AM EST
Mealtime prayer again under fire
ACLU threatens to take legal action against Academy

By Josh Mitchell

Sun reporter

June 26, 2008
Click here to find out more!

A national civil liberties group is renewing a push to end mealtime prayer at the U.S. Naval Academy, where a group of midshipmen recently complained to officials that they felt pressured to participate in the longtime practice.

The tradition, believed to date back to the college's founding in 1845, now involves a chaplain's leading grace before a noon meal that all 4,200 midshipmen must attend at King Hall. Midshipmen are not required to pray, though they must stand during the recital, and most bow their heads.

Nine students recently approached the American Civil Liberties Union for help in getting the academy to end the practice. In a letter recently sent to the academy's superintendent, Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler, the ACLU threatened legal action.

"The government should not be in the business of compelling religious observance, particularly in military academies, where students can feel coerced by senior students and officials and risk the loss of leadership opportunities for following their conscience," Deborah A. Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, wrote.

The academy has rejected various requests by the ACLU and other civil liberties groups to end the practice, and a college spokesman said yesterday that its position remains the same.

"The Academy does not intend to change its practice of offering Midshipmen an opportunity for prayer or devotional thought during noon meal announcements," the spokesman, Cmdr. Ed Austin, said in a statement. He said college officials are "coordinating our response with Department of the Navy leadership and will be responding to the ACLU soon."

The ACLU's latest push in Annapolis renews questions about the role of religion at the nation's military colleges.

In 2003, a federal appeals court struck down suppertime prayer at the Virginia Military Institute as a violation of church-state separation.

Two years later, the Air Force Academy faced charges of proselytizing by college personnel and cadets, prompting investigations and new guidelines that discouraged most public prayer throughout the Air Force. The academy observes a moment of silence before meals.

This week, The New York Times reported that about a half-dozen cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point told the paper that religion was a constant at the academy. They pointed to prayers at mandatory banquets and religious terms used in speeches by the college's former top military leader.

A West Point spokesman said it does not have mealtime prayers.

"During a very few big events each year, such as the 500th-night banquet and graduation we have a nondenominational invocation and benediction," said Col. Bryan Hilferty, the spokesman, in an email. "That is all. Not during breakfast. Not during lunch. Not during dinner. Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not in a house. Not with a mouse."

For years, civil liberties groups have petitioned the Naval Academy to stop mealtime prayer. The ACLU said that it has periodically received complaints from midshipmen about the practice and that some students recently wrote anonymously to academy leaders to complain.

Jeon said the ACLU was approached last winter by nine midshipmen who opposed the practice, which involves students standing at "parade rest," bowing their heads and folding their hands while chaplains recite a prayer. Midshipmen are not required to bow their heads, she said, but those who refuse to do so stand out and risk feeling ostracized.

The academy has not responded to the ACLU's May 2 letter to Fowler, she said. "The only option that's left is to file a lawsuit, and we are considering this," Jeon said.

A Navy ensign who graduated from the academy last month said that she and a group of students approached the ACLU last winter because they came to believe the practice was unconstitutional.

The woman, who spoke on the condition that she not be identified because she feared retribution, said students are taught on their first day at the academy to change stances and bow their heads during prayer.

"When everyone around you is doing that, especially as a plebe, it's very domineering and kind of scary if you don't wish to participate," said the woman, who was raised Roman Catholic but is now agnostic.

She said she stopped bowing her head during prayer in her junior and senior years. No one ever remarked about her refusal to bow her head and clasp her hands in front of her during prayer, she said.

"They always say, 'If you will, please join me in prayer.' It's obviously optional, but the fact that everyone around you is doing it makes it a peer influence," the academy graduate said.

Experts have been divided over whether the practice would withstand legal scrutiny.

Eugene R. Fidell, a Washington lawyer who specializes in military law, said the Navy "treads on thin ice" in this case.

"Being in a service academy is a unique environment where obedience and group dynamics are at their apogee," Fidell said. "The danger that individual preferences or conscience will be overridden as a result of group pressure or institutional pressure is palpable."

He added, "It's not a funeral. It's not an inauguration. It's the noon meal. Nothing is more routine than that."

Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., a North Carolina Republican who has introduced legislation in recent years to preserve the right of U.S. military academies to offer grace during mealtime, said the prayer at the academy is an important tradition.

"This has just been part of the education of the midshipmen for years and years," Jones said, pointing out that midshipmen aren't forced to pray. "If that midshipman is standing there with his or her head bowed, they could be thinking about the next Notre Dame-Navy football game."
Link Posted: 6/27/2008 8:46:40 AM EST
[Last Edit: 6/27/2008 8:49:11 AM EST by Dino]
I'm probably going to surprise some of you when I say I have no issue with the lunchtime prayer.

I was at the Naval Academy and made my transition from doubting theist to atheist. Some of the best spiritual guidance I received in that time was from a Catholic chaplain. Noone ever forced me to pray or bow my head and the prayers offered were always non-sectarian. There was definitely pressure to conform, but if you're not able to handle that kind of pressure, you don't belong at a service academy in the first place.

The military is a special place and the system that was present when I served worked admirably. It allowed those of any faith to partake of it and draw strength from it, but it also allowed those of a more secular bent to avoid intrusive proselytizing. For the good of the service, you can't have the divisive conflict that happens when even people who are friends joust over religion. You can do that in the civilian world, but any military service that allows it will have serious issues.

I think the military needs to be run more like the religion forum than GD

There have been instances where some people have abused their positions to try and proselytize, but those can be addressed on an individual basis and by giving organizations such as MAAF to offer support to midshipmen, much as religious organizations do within the academy.

They should keep the tradition imo.

Link Posted: 6/27/2008 9:49:12 AM EST
As soon as the ACLU knows how to fight wars and run the service, maybe they can have a say. Otherwise they can take their letter and stick it where the sun don't shine.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 8:35:22 AM EST

Well now that's a fine christian thing to say. The Navy is on thin ice here. Nobody is officially compelled to pray, but if they don't? A plebe is doing his best here NOT to stick out so he will conform... or at least bow his head so that he isn't noticed.

Praying out of tradition? I couldn't hink of a worse reason. We can pray without making it a show.

remember christ and the Pharisees.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 9:22:03 AM EST
I think it probably is unconstitutional. Even though students aren't required to pray, they are required to stand. This means that some level of participation is mandatory.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 9:30:23 AM EST



Our Founding Fathers prayed before each government meeting and met in Churches before Independence Hall was created.

Anti-religious = historically ignorant
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 9:32:06 AM EST

Originally Posted By DriveNASCAR:
I think it probably is unconstitutional. Even though students aren't required to pray, they are required to stand. This means that some level of participation is mandatory.


Freedom OF religion. NOT freedom FROM religion.

Requiring them to stand is not religious.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 9:32:48 AM EST

Originally Posted By JoseyWales:
www.protestwarrior.com/nimages/signs/thumb/pw_sign_29.gif


Our Founding Fathers prayed before each government meeting and met in Churches before Independence Hall was created.

Anti-religious = historically ignorant


But were the Founding Fathers required to pray even if they didn't believe? That seems to be the case at the Naval Academy.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 12:49:06 PM EST
I don't have a problem with them being required to stand in observance of the tradition. Building uniformity is part of the military experience.

But to compel prayer is unjust. And unChristian as well I'd bet.

Smacks of dhimmitude.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 1:40:49 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/29/2008 3:19:12 PM EST by HardShell]
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 3:26:15 PM EST

Originally Posted By HardShell:
Nobody is being required/compelled to pray, nor even to bow -- only to stand.


And why do they have to stand? Because it's required for the religious ceremony that is taking place.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 3:31:00 PM EST

Originally Posted By JoseyWales:
Freedom OF religion. NOT freedom FROM religion.


Same thing.


Originally Posted By JoseyWales:
Requiring them to stand is not religious.


Requiring them to stand up for a religious service is religious.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 4:02:07 PM EST

Originally Posted By HardShell:

Originally Posted By DriveNASCAR:
But were the Founding Fathers required to pray even if they didn't believe? That seems to be the case at the Naval Academy.




Originally Posted By Troubl3shooter:
I don't have a problem with them being required to stand in observance of the tradition. Building uniformity is part of the military experience.

But to compel prayer is unjust. And unChristian as well I'd bet.

Smacks of dhimmitude.


Did either of you read the article in the OP above?

Nobody is being required/compelled to pray, nor even to bow -- only to stand.


I didn't say they were, I was stating my opinion of if they had.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 4:22:44 PM EST
So when are they going to require Congress to stop opening up the day's business with prayer?
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 4:50:20 PM EST

Originally Posted By unclemoak:
So when are they going to require Congress to stop opening up the day's business with prayer?


A realistic guess would be when they become honest and consistent.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 5:18:06 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/29/2008 5:19:42 PM EST by HoodyHoo21]

Originally Posted By JoseyWales:
www.protestwarrior.com/nimages/signs/thumb/pw_sign_29.gif


Our Founding Fathers prayed before each government meeting and met in Churches before Independence Hall was created.

Anti-religious = historically ignorant



Our founding fathers didn't know about DNA either. Should we just throw away all we know about DNA too? Don't you think its about time that we stopped living by the cultural standards of over 200 years ago and act like its 2008?


There should be NO religious prayer in the military at all! If you wanted to pray on your own time that is perfectly fine, but to have an organized prayer at lunch (even if you dont have to pray, but still have to stand) is just wrong. Religion should be separated from the gov't completely in my opinion.

And yes, I do think they should remove "In God we Trust" off the US currency too. To this day I still cant figure out what god they are even talking about.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 5:39:03 PM EST

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:

Originally Posted By JoseyWales:
www.protestwarrior.com/nimages/signs/thumb/pw_sign_29.gif


Our Founding Fathers prayed before each government meeting and met in Churches before Independence Hall was created.

Anti-religious = historically ignorant



Our founding fathers didn't know about DNA either. Should we just throw away all we know about DNA too? Don't you think its about time that we stopped living by the cultural standards of over 200 years ago and act like its 2008?


There should be NO religious prayer in the military at all! If you wanted to pray on your own time that is perfectly fine, but to have an organized prayer at lunch (even if you dont have to pray, but still have to stand) is just wrong. Religion should be separated from the gov't completely in my opinion.

And yes, I do think they should remove "In God we Trust" off the US currency too. To this day I still cant figure out what god they are even talking about.


You know wich God it is, It should not matter to you, since you are an athiest.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 6:01:04 PM EST

Originally Posted By walttx:

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:

Originally Posted By JoseyWales:
www.protestwarrior.com/nimages/signs/thumb/pw_sign_29.gif


Our Founding Fathers prayed before each government meeting and met in Churches before Independence Hall was created.

Anti-religious = historically ignorant



Our founding fathers didn't know about DNA either. Should we just throw away all we know about DNA too? Don't you think its about time that we stopped living by the cultural standards of over 200 years ago and act like its 2008?


There should be NO religious prayer in the military at all! If you wanted to pray on your own time that is perfectly fine, but to have an organized prayer at lunch (even if you dont have to pray, but still have to stand) is just wrong. Religion should be separated from the gov't completely in my opinion.

And yes, I do think they should remove "In God we Trust" off the US currency too. To this day I still cant figure out what god they are even talking about.


You know wich God it is, It should not matter to you, since you are an athiest.


I do know what god it is yes, but I always thought it was odd that they would pay homage to Zeus in a primarily Christian country. You would think that they would say something about the Christian God, but I guess not.
Link Posted: 6/29/2008 7:47:14 PM EST

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:
I do know what god it is yes, but I always thought it was odd that they would pay homage to Zeus in a primarily Christian country. You would think that they would say something about the Christian God, but I guess not.


Zeus?

I thought it was Odin!

I suppose it could be Ra, the Egyptian sun god.
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 7:46:13 AM EST

Originally Posted By DriveNASCAR:

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:
I do know what god it is yes, but I always thought it was odd that they would pay homage to Zeus in a primarily Christian country. You would think that they would say something about the Christian God, but I guess not.


Zeus?

I thought it was Odin!

I suppose it could be Ra, the Egyptian sun god.



RA RA RA the sun God, He's always been the fun God!
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 7:53:25 AM EST
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 7:54:24 AM EST

Originally Posted By Dino:
I'm probably going to surprise some of you when I say I have no issue with the lunchtime prayer.

I was at the Naval Academy and made my transition from doubting theist to atheist. Some of the best spiritual guidance I received in that time was from a Catholic chaplain. Noone ever forced me to pray or bow my head and the prayers offered were always non-sectarian. There was definitely pressure to conform, but if you're not able to handle that kind of pressure, you don't belong at a service academy in the first place.

The military is a special place and the system that was present when I served worked admirably. It allowed those of any faith to partake of it and draw strength from it, but it also allowed those of a more secular bent to avoid intrusive proselytizing. For the good of the service, you can't have the divisive conflict that happens when even people who are friends joust over religion. You can do that in the civilian world, but any military service that allows it will have serious issues.

I think the military needs to be run more like the religion forum than GD

There have been instances where some people have abused their positions to try and proselytize, but those can be addressed on an individual basis and by giving organizations such as MAAF to offer support to midshipmen, much as religious organizations do within the academy.

They should keep the tradition imo.



I didn't know you were an academy grad... When I was there, a group of midshipmen tried the same tired routine... It didn't work then; I doubt it'll work now. The lunchtime prayer will be around for a while...
Matt
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 7:55:48 AM EST

Originally Posted By DriveNASCAR:
I think it probably is unconstitutional. Even though students aren't required to pray, they are required to stand. This means that some level of participation is mandatory.


If Congress makes a law regarding the exercise of religion, it is unconstitutional. If, at a military academy, the higher ranking officer makes the ENTIRE Brigade of Midshipmen stand before a meal, it has nothing to do with the Constitution.
Matt
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 8:00:55 AM EST
[Last Edit: 7/1/2008 8:06:46 AM EST by valheru21]

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:

Originally Posted By JoseyWales:
www.protestwarrior.com/nimages/signs/thumb/pw_sign_29.gif


Our Founding Fathers prayed before each government meeting and met in Churches before Independence Hall was created.

Anti-religious = historically ignorant



Our founding fathers didn't know about DNA either. Should we just throw away all we know about DNA too? Don't you think its about time that we stopped living by the cultural standards of over 200 years ago and act like its 2008?


You're so progressive...



There should be NO religious prayer in the military at all!


You ever been shot at? I didn't think so.


If you wanted to pray on your own time that is perfectly fine, but to have an organized prayer at lunch (even if you dont have to pray, but still have to stand) is just wrong. Religion should be separated from the gov't completely in my opinion.


Feel free to demonstrate how it is wrong... you may provide instances where the rights of a non-believing person are subjugated by this action. Those who do not believe stand out of respect for our beliefs. Were I a non-believer, I would have no problem with this. Oh by the way, over 55% of the Academy was Catholic while I was there... another 40% were protestant... there were a few Jews and Muslims... and a handful of athiests.


And yes, I do think they should remove "In God we Trust" off the US currency too. To this day I still cant figure out what god they are even talking about.


Being the progressive person you are, I figured you'd be using credit cards (which do not say anything about God)... paper money and coins are sooooo 18th century.
Matt
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 8:53:19 AM EST

Originally Posted By valheru21:

You ever been shot at? I didn't think so


Thats your justification for cramming prayer down everyones throats??? Are you kidding me???!!!

I expected more from you.


Ironically, you touched on why religion exists at all......a fear of death. But we dont have to get into that.
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 9:00:44 AM EST

Originally Posted By valheru21:
Feel free to demonstrate how it is wrong... you may provide instances where the rights of a non-believing person are subjugated by this action. Those who do not believe stand out of respect for our beliefs. Were I a non-believer, I would have no problem with this. Oh by the way, over 55% of the Academy was Catholic while I was there... another 40% were protestant... there were a few Jews and Muslims... and a handful of athiests.


Being forced to stand for a prayer ceremony DOES violate my 1st amedment right. Do I not have any freedom from YOUR religion?



Oh by the way, over 55% of the Academy was Catholic while I was there... another 40% were protestant... there were a few Jews and Muslims... and a handful of athiests.


Was there a point to these stats or were you just using the argument that since there were more Catholics then atheists then its your way or the highway?



You're so progressive...


Being the progressive person you are, I figured you'd be using credit cards (which do not say anything about God)... paper money and coins are sooooo 18th century.


So basically what I got from this is you are perfectly happy living your life top the standards of 200 years ago. Thats fine, but I wont be selling my daughters off to slavery like the bible says...........
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 9:05:54 AM EST

Originally Posted By valheru21:
If Congress makes a law regarding the exercise of religion, it is unconstitutional. If, at a military academy, the higher ranking officer makes the ENTIRE Brigade of Midshipmen stand before a meal, it has nothing to do with the Constitution.
Matt


If the entire brigade is required to stand in observance of a religious practice, it has everything to do with freedom of religion.
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 9:13:18 AM EST
sorry been travelling and haven't had a chance to check back.

The requirement to stand isn't related to the prayer. You stand through announcements and orders. Then the non-sectarian prayer (which you can ignore as a non-believer) and then you are given permission to take seats.

To be frank, mealtimes for a Plebe are rough. The longer the prayer, the less time upperclassmen have to harass you hehe.

Link Posted: 7/1/2008 9:15:53 AM EST
[Last Edit: 7/1/2008 9:19:19 AM EST by DriveNASCAR]

Originally Posted By Dino:
sorry been travelling and haven't had a chance to check back.

The requirement to stand isn't related to the prayer. You stand through announcements and orders. Then the non-sectarian prayer (which you can ignore as a non-believer) and then you are given permission to take seats.

To be frank, mealtimes for a Plebe are rough. The longer the prayer, the less time upperclassmen have to harass you hehe.



If the requirement to stand isn't at least partially related to the prayer, why do the midshipmen have to wait until the prayer is over before taking their seats?
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 9:22:10 AM EST

Originally Posted By valheru21:

I didn't know you were an academy grad... When I was there, a group of midshipmen tried the same tired routine... It didn't work then; I doubt it'll work now. The lunchtime prayer will be around for a while...
Matt


not actually a grad, just someone who served time there

Link Posted: 7/1/2008 9:27:58 AM EST

Originally Posted By DriveNASCAR:
If the requirement to stand isn't at least partially related to the prayer, why do the midshipmen have to wait until the prayer is over before taking their seats?


At lunchtime is when the brigade does everything as one.

We formed up together. We marched in together. We stood for orders together. We took our seats together.

You can march to your own drumbeat in off hours. At lunch, you toe the line just like everyone else. A non-sectarian prayer is hardly something to get offended at.

Link Posted: 7/1/2008 9:29:32 AM EST

Originally Posted By Dino:
You can march to your own drumbeat in off hours. At lunch, you toe the line just like everyone else. A non-sectarian prayer is hardly something to get offended at.


How about having a pagan ceremony, then?
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 9:31:28 AM EST
[Last Edit: 7/1/2008 9:33:34 AM EST by gopeterson]
I'm with the ACLU on this one. This will run through the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which is the same court that struck down VMI's prayer. Good for them.

P.S. How would your views change if a Muslim cleric were leading the prayer?
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 9:36:33 AM EST

Originally Posted By gopeterson:
P.S. How would your views change if a Muslim cleric were leading the prayer?


+87643587634289563248709532098­74659324760832467583724

That's what I was getting at with my comment about having a pagan ceremony.
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 9:58:08 AM EST

Originally Posted By gopeterson:
I'm with the ACLU on this one. This will run through the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which is the same court that struck down VMI's prayer. Good for them.

P.S. How would your views change if a Muslim cleric were leading the prayer?


The prayers are nonsectarian.

I would have no problem with a Muslim leading the prayer. Would you?


Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:09:22 AM EST
[Last Edit: 7/1/2008 6:23:39 PM EST by Troubl3shooter]

Originally Posted By Dino:

Originally Posted By gopeterson:
I'm with the ACLU on this one. This will run through the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which is the same court that struck down VMI's prayer. Good for them.

P.S. How would your views change if a Muslim cleric were leading the prayer?


The prayers are nonsectarian.

I would have no problem with a Muslim leading the prayer. Would you?


They did, sort of...

Edit: Made link hot.
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:12:22 AM EST

Originally Posted By Dino:

Originally Posted By gopeterson:
I'm with the ACLU on this one. This will run through the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which is the same court that struck down VMI's prayer. Good for them.

P.S. How would your views change if a Muslim cleric were leading the prayer?


The prayers are nonsectarian.

I would have no problem with a Muslim leading the prayer. Would you?




Out of curiosity, how do you have a nonsectarian prayer.

Do you say.."Dear many Gods....thank you for this meal....etc etc etc.

AMEN to all you Gods."
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:14:49 AM EST

Originally Posted By DriveNASCAR:

Originally Posted By gopeterson:
P.S. How would your views change if a Muslim cleric were leading the prayer?


+87643587634289563248709532098­74659324760832467583724

That's what I was getting at with my comment about having a pagan ceremony.


I'm curious if you consider Jews pagans as well as Muslims? Whatever logic you use to brand Muslims as pagans would also apply to Jews.



Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:28:28 AM EST

Originally Posted By Dino:
I'm curious if you consider Jews pagans as well as Muslims? Whatever logic you use to brand Muslims as pagans would also apply to Jews.


By "pagan", I meant actual pagans. Like Odinists, for example. I was comparing my comment to Muslims from the standpoint that both pagans and Muslims are non-Christian.
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:32:28 AM EST

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:
Out of curiosity, how do you have a nonsectarian prayer.

Do you say.."Dear many Gods....thank you for this meal....etc etc etc.

AMEN to all you Gods."


Amen isn't used by pagans. That's discriminatory!
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:34:44 AM EST

Originally Posted By DriveNASCAR:

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:
Out of curiosity, how do you have a nonsectarian prayer.

Do you say.."Dear many Gods....thank you for this meal....etc etc etc.

AMEN to all you Gods."


Amen isn't used by pagans. That's discriminatory!


So then technically if they end this "nonsectarian" prayer with AMEN, its not really nonsectarian.


We all know this prayer is meant to go to the Christian God.
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:37:54 AM EST

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:
We all know this prayer is meant to go to the Christian God.


Agreed. I'd be surprised if it wasn't at least based in Christian principles/beliefs, even if it doesn't specifically mention Christianity.
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:38:27 AM EST

Originally Posted By Dino:

Originally Posted By gopeterson:
I'm with the ACLU on this one. This will run through the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which is the same court that struck down VMI's prayer. Good for them.

P.S. How would your views change if a Muslim cleric were leading the prayer?


The prayers are nonsectarian.

I would have no problem with a Muslim leading the prayer. Would you?




When you say "nonsectarian" what you really mean is one that doesn't specify a particular Christian religion. But, like the VMI case, does the prayer invoke the words "God", "Our Heavenly Father" and the like? I bet it does.

I think the 4th Circuit got it right in the VMI case. That type of prayer violates the Establishment Clause. While it may not be "mandatory" it has the coercive effect on the men and woman at the Naval Academy to participate. At the very least it is the Naval Academy subjecting the Midshipmen to a Christian form of prayer. I find that objectionable and in violation of the 1st Amendment. I stand in good company with the panel from the 4th Cir. that decided the VMI case.
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:38:32 AM EST

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:

Out of curiosity, how do you have a nonsectarian prayer.

Do you say.."Dear many Gods....thank you for this meal....etc etc etc.

AMEN to all you Gods."


I've seen a lot of different ways.

generally avoid hitting on issues that will cause sectarian strife

Don't call the pope the anti-Christ
Speak about god in general language (Heavenly Father vice Zeus or Yawheh)
Avoid the issues of prophets altogether (Moses vs Jesus vs Mohammed vs Bab for instance)

Keeping the language general will avoid offense for most theists and religious non-theists (like myself) tend interpret the language symbolically, not literally. That only leaves extremely bigoted theists and the non-religious atheists with chips on their shoulders to find offense.

This is the chaplain problem in reverse. There have been some evangelical pastors who have complained about having to mentor to non-Christian soldiers. The problem is, the Chaplain corps makes it very clear that their purpose is to mentor to the spiritual needs of everyone in the service. Its goal is to increase military preparedness through spiritual means. Any chaplain who only wants to minister to "his" kind is worthless to the military.

The military is a volunteer force. Those who volunteer know that
1) the military has chaplains
2) most of the military follows some sort of religion
3) the needs of the service limit their right to kick their fellow soldier's sacred cows.

If they are being forced to pray, that is over the line. If they are simply asked to be respectful while others pray, then I have no problem with it.

Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:41:11 AM EST

Originally Posted By Dino:
If they are being forced to pray, that is over the line. If they are simply asked to be respectful while others pray, then I have no problem with it.


So you would be okay with requiring soldiers to kneel in the direction of Mecca five times per day as long as they didn't actually have to pray to Allah?
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:48:24 AM EST

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:

So then technically if they end this "nonsectarian" prayer with AMEN, its not really nonsectarian.


We all know this prayer is meant to go to the Christian God.


It can definitely be traced back to Judaism. Amen is "truly"

Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:52:26 AM EST

Originally Posted By DriveNASCAR:

Originally Posted By Dino:
If they are being forced to pray, that is over the line. If they are simply asked to be respectful while others pray, then I have no problem with it.


So you would be okay with requiring soldiers to kneel in the direction of Mecca five times per day as long as they didn't actually have to pray to Allah?


That would be a sectarian prayer, now wouldn't it.

Other things that would cross the line:

forcing people to bow their heads
forcing people to make the sign of the cross

Standing at parade rest for the duration of the prayer is hardly an infringement of rights for a military person.

When you are in the military, you accept limitations on many of your rights. The right to act like an asshole when your fellow soldiers are praying is one of them.

Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:59:32 AM EST
[Last Edit: 7/1/2008 11:08:07 AM EST by Dino]

Originally Posted By gopeterson:
When you say "nonsectarian" what you really mean is one that doesn't specify a particular Christian religion. But, like the VMI case, does the prayer invoke the words "God", "Our Heavenly Father" and the like? I bet it does.

I think the 4th Circuit got it right in the VMI case. That type of prayer violates the Establishment Clause. While it may not be "mandatory" it has the coercive effect on the men and woman at the Naval Academy to participate. At the very least it is the Naval Academy subjecting the Midshipmen to a Christian form of prayer. I find that objectionable and in violation of the 1st Amendment. I stand in good company with the panel from the 4th Cir. that decided the VMI case.


My understanding is the VMI prayer was more coercive (I never attended VMI, maybe someone who has attended can fill us in on the details). IIRC, they had ritualized prayers for each day of the week and all cadets had to recite them. This IS over the line.

Also, VMI was claiming military necessity, but they are a private institution which recieves public funds. Its students are civilians. The Naval Academy is a military command. Its students are all part of the military.

The only coercion at the Naval Academy when I was there (1992-1995) was that you couldn't act like an ass when other people were praying.

If they are forcing Midshipmen to participate in prayers, that is over the line. Nothing I have seen or heard says that is the case.



Link Posted: 7/1/2008 10:59:53 AM EST

Originally Posted By Dino:

Originally Posted By DriveNASCAR:

Originally Posted By Dino:
If they are being forced to pray, that is over the line. If they are simply asked to be respectful while others pray, then I have no problem with it.


So you would be okay with requiring soldiers to kneel in the direction of Mecca five times per day as long as they didn't actually have to pray to Allah?


That would be a sectarian prayer, now wouldn't it.

Other things that would cross the line:

forcing people to bow their heads
forcing people to make the sign of the cross

Standing at parade rest for the duration of the prayer is hardly an infringement of rights for a military person.

When you are in the military, you accept limitations on many of your rights. The right to act like an asshole when your fellow soldiers are praying is one of them.


That's not what this case is about so your argument is disingenuous.
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 11:06:47 AM EST

Originally Posted By Dino:

Originally Posted By DriveNASCAR:

Originally Posted By Dino:
If they are being forced to pray, that is over the line. If they are simply asked to be respectful while others pray, then I have no problem with it.


So you would be okay with requiring soldiers to kneel in the direction of Mecca five times per day as long as they didn't actually have to pray to Allah?


That would be a sectarian prayer, now wouldn't it.

Other things that would cross the line:

forcing people to bow their heads
forcing people to make the sign of the cross

Standing at parade rest for the duration of the prayer is hardly an infringement of rights for a military person.

When you are in the military, you accept limitations on many of your rights. The right to act like an asshole when your fellow soldiers are praying is one of them.




Does it make me an asshole if there are a buch of guys standing and praying, and I sit down because I am hungry and dont want to pray?
Link Posted: 7/1/2008 11:09:49 AM EST

Originally Posted By HoodyHoo21:
Does it make me an asshole if there are a buch of guys standing and praying, and I sit down because I am hungry and dont want to pray?


No, simply sitting down wouldn't make you an asshole. It would mean you had violated orders by not maintaining discipline in ranks. Which is a bit more serious than just being an asshole hehe.



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