Pastors turn out supporting government prayer; city committee mostly quiet

2013-01-30T16:05:00Z 2013-01-30T23:04:59Z Pastors turn out supporting government prayer; city committee mostly quietAaron Orlowski Journal staff Rapid City Journal
January 30, 2013 4:05 pm  • 

Rapid City ministers were preaching to the choir Wednesday when they urged members of the city's Legal & Finance Committee to oppose a request by a national organization to end the practice of praying before council meetings.

Before the committee voted unanimously for a policy to be drafted to address the complaint made by the group Freedom from Religion, Council Member Steve Laurenti said he believed that prayers are protected speech under the  First Amendment.

"I believe this prayer is the free exercise thereof," he said. "This municipal government is not making any law respecting any type of religion."

City government is addressing the issue after the national nonprofit organization sent a letter to the city asking that it end its policy of opening city council meetings with prayers, claiming the practice violates the Establishment clause of the Constitution.

The organization said it sent its letter to the city after it received a complaint from a Rapid City resident.

At Wednesday's meeting, Calvary Chapel Community Church Pastor Greg Blanc asked council members to continue "this longstanding tradition in our city."

"Based on our community values and standards, we believe it's wisdom to maintain this practice," said Blanc, who was representing the Rapid City Ministerial Association.

John Dennis, director of communications for the Family Heritage Alliance, urged the council members to hold their ground on the matter.

"We'd really like to ask you consider holding onto this wonderful tradition. Whether we're in this room or not, we're on a regular basis praying for our elected leaders," he said.

The committee voted unanimously to ask the city attorney's office to draft a policy outlining the city's official practice on prayers before meetings.

City Attorney Joel Landeen said the policy could be adopted after just one reading and one vote by the entire council. He said he expected a policy should be available for the full council to vote on in a couple weeks.

Landeen said in a memo that a policy could help if a lawsuit were filed against the city, though it would not guarantee the city would prevail. Freedom From Religion has filed lawsuits in other cases nationwide on separation of church and state issues.

Contact Aaron Orlowski at 484-7069 or

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(22) Comments

  1. Ruth69
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    Ruth69 - January 31, 2013 8:49 pm
    When I was a child, I was taught in Presbyterian Sunday school that silent prayers would as well as spoken ones. Has that changed or is someone just trying to flaunt their religion (Jesus said not to in Matthew 6)? The Baptists have a long history of promoting separation of church and state because of the persecution they suffered in the colonies. In colonial Virginia, Anglicans (the state church) even took children from Baptist parents to be raised in Anglican families.

    (Although he sometimes attended church with Martha, George Washington did not take communion.)

    "When they [the Church] have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the Candlestick, etc., and made His Garden a wilderness as it is this day. And that therefore if He will ever please to restore His garden and Paradise again, it must of necessity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world, and all that be saved out of the world are to be transplanted out of the wilderness of the World." Roger Williams, "Mr. Cotton's Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered," The Complete Writings of Roger Williams (New York: Russell & Russell Inc. 1963), Vol. 1, 108.
  2. Humfree1859
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    Humfree1859 - January 31, 2013 5:15 pm
    First, the Federalist papers were written by a few individuals and respresented their own points of view in the setting of that time and religious - political climate. The writings were put together as the Federalist Papers and used by many as guidelines for governmental development. However, those paper are not law and represent period and philosophical points of view somewhat outmoded today. Second, The Constitution of the United States is the foundation for our laws, and it proscibes religious rituals, prayers and proselytizing from the public spere. Keep your religious activities out of the City Council meetings!
  3. Humfree1859
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    Humfree1859 - January 31, 2013 4:33 pm
    First, the Federalist Papers were written by a few people, who represented themselves and not too many others directly. The Federal Papers didn't turn into law. Second, we were governed by the United States Constitution at last glance, and it pertains to all citizens, not just those of one belief.
  4. Humfree1859
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    Humfree1859 - January 31, 2013 4:28 pm
    About 20% of our national population is nonaffiliated with any religious institution, according to PEW Forum.. That amounts to over 60 million people. Get your facts right!
  5. commenter112358
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    commenter112358 - January 31, 2013 12:40 pm
    Thank-you for your service to our country. Why should rely on the political propeganda of the 1790's (the Federalist Papers) rather than on the plain meaning of the words used in the constitution? Maybe they didn't mention it when you were in basic training, but the rights you defended include the rights of those who disagree with you. Suggesting that those who assert the need to keep religion seperate from government is the equivalent of disregarding the constitution and the individual rights it protects.
  6. El Gringo Grande
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    El Gringo Grande - January 31, 2013 8:58 am
    The highest court in the land has ruled on this issue. The law is pretty clear. Prayers are unlawful in a venue where public monies are involved. How inconvenient for the reactionaries of western SD. Please try to understand that the law does not kneel before the altar of your particular belief.
  7. Dogwoman
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    Dogwoman - January 31, 2013 8:25 am
    The city is made out of more than atheists and Christians. Your point seems to be well-made though. If they arent Christian, try to degrade them and humiliate them, and then complain about how disrespectful they are to you.
  8. Dakota Ag-Pilot
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    Dakota Ag-Pilot - January 31, 2013 8:09 am
    Perhaps our city council could pursue an approach similar to former Governor William Janklow, who recognizing the need to be respectful to people of all beliefs, designated one corner of the second floor of the Capital for those whose who do not believe in God. During the annual display of the Christmas tree's, that corner would remain empty, for as Bill put it, there is a place here appropriately dark, with nothing there, for those who believe in nothing at all.
    This is another case of the less than one percent trying to dictate to the majority, how it should live. Let God, and your faith in him lead us above this foolishness!
  9. Good and Godless
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    Good and Godless - January 31, 2013 5:35 am
    There is a "best" way for government to function. Currently the "best" way for government to function is being impeded by contrarian nay-sayers hiding behind a series of fictional stories long since disproven.
    The biggest fallacy is that the church has legitimate claim to anything. The reverent christ-stains easily driven to derail good government policy with the weakest of links to a fictional retranslation while evaluation of the current state of affairs and a plethora of facts and valid studies is ignored.
    They take marching orders from an overseas secretive organization which manipulates world economies and dictates diet, education, elections, work schedule and threatens even the thought of malcontentment with an eternity of torture.
    Keep the pope's foreign nose out of American Politics. No oversees power hoarding pope and not any fictional god has any legal authority in the United States. Anyone heeding outside directives from these authorities to defy good policy is treading close to treason.The delusions of religion need to be taught in the most vile and despicable ways. With threats of eternal damnation and false promises of eternal happiness.
    Freedom forever - religion never.
  10. Good and Godless
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    Good and Godless - January 31, 2013 5:31 am
    Artificially justifing the legitimacy of any religion by tolerance is clearly a flaw. It is unfair this avenue for social treason was not clearly and fully excluded when the 1st Amendment was drafted. It is time to correct that flaw left by our founding fathers and end constraints imposed by myth and superstition.Change the constitution remove any rights of religion, as it is demonstrated time and time again that churches cannot be trusted with good policy and respect of rule of law.The burden on society is alarming.TAX THE CHURCH! Soon after the IRS, FDA and Consumer Protection will reign reason down upon the church and those that cannot hold up to scrutiny (all of them) will have to shut down.
  11. ddfjmf
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    ddfjmf - January 31, 2013 12:14 am
    Many of you " Anti-Christian" people must also read the Federalist Papers. You will find that our Constitution was formed with a Christian foundation. I'm a retired disabled veteran who defended our "rights" for twenty five years of my life. I want to know when will someone have the guts to tell the one person who complained to leave? If I don't like the rules in this ballpark I have the right to get my own ball park and make my own Rules. If you don't like to watch us pray then leave. The majority must speak loudly and if the minority don't like it. They have the constitutional right to leave. That's what demacracy is all about.
  12. Revelation
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    Revelation - January 31, 2013 12:13 am
    God has played a role in our government throughout much of history. Here are some Presidential quotes:

    "Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God." - George Washington

    "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." "All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man....The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God." - all from Thomas Jefferson

    "There is nothing stable but heaven and the Constitution." - James Madison

    "By the laws of nature and nature's God, man cannot be the property of man." - John Quincy Adams (against slavery)

    "Conscience is that magistrate of God in the human heart whose still small voice the loudest revelry cannot drown. - William Henry Harrison

    2nd Inaugural Address - Abraham Lincoln (basically the whole address---well worth reading)
  13. commenter112358
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    commenter112358 - January 30, 2013 10:06 pm
    Pray all you want in church. I shouldn't be subjected to any religious nonsense (whether it be christian, jewish, islamic, buddist or whatever) as a cost of attending a public meeting of my government. Apparently, these freeloading pastors can't convincene enough people to come to church, so they shame elected officials into proclaiming their faith as a part fo the political process. Hope the political activities of the named pastors result in the loss of their tax exempt status . . . if they have to pay their fair share, maybe they will get real jobs instead of peddling pre-historic snake oil.
  14. ttpilot
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    ttpilot - January 30, 2013 9:58 pm
    Perhaps the city council should hold its meetings in a bar. You would be singing a different tune then.

    The hypocracy of those who say "don't go where there is prayer going on," that being an OFFICIAL MEETING OF CITY GOVERNMENT, astonishes me. Not everybody wants to be part of your prayers and they have no desire to have them forced on them. It is against the spirit of democracy. In Iran such prayers as part of government are the rule, not here
  15. Dogwoman
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    Dogwoman - January 30, 2013 9:09 pm
    It is only common decency to respect EVERYONE who is gathered at a council meeting. We shouldn't even have to resort to laws which clearly separate church and state. To have a group prayer as a prerequisite to conducting city business is a slap in the face of someone who does not share that belief. Americans are not all of one religion. Have a little respect for the beliefs and rights of free people, and guess what, they will respect you back You will not even have to worry about lawsuits or lawyers because you will have done the smart and decent thing without even being forced to.
  16. ZAR
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    ZAR - January 30, 2013 8:54 pm

    Far from it! I am looking forward to a day when folks put religion back where it belongs as I see it , a focused atmosphere of intertwined beliefs within the close confines of the family and your network of friends.
    In my humble opinion you cheapen faith by demanding a purely ceremonial Prayer at a public function , if that is the case then you have crossed over the line! I must ask is faith now a commodity to my fellow citizens? One final question ; Is faith something that needs marketing expertise?

  17. Wayne Gilbert
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    Wayne Gilbert - January 30, 2013 8:35 pm
    Why haven't these pious pastors spoken out on the racism expressed by Councilman Willam Clayton, who is a disgrace to Rapid City? We can tolerate bigotry as long as we recite some litany before each meeting? I notice that many area city councils ceased public prayer some years ago, yet none of their members have expressed anything along the lines of what Clayton did. I submit that, if someone from Deadwood or Hill City or Spearfish had said what he did, that person wouldn't have embarassed their city by remaining in office.
  18. baddogma
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    baddogma - January 30, 2013 8:06 pm
    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" By calling a deity by name, that IS establishing a religion. Just like it is unconstitutional to put One nation under Jesus on a dollar bill. God is a title like Captain, not a name.
  19. eifeldude
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    eifeldude - January 30, 2013 6:46 pm
    Please keep religion out of politics. The two don't ever mix. What about people who are of a different religion. Are they to be disenfranchised. Your not showing any tolerance when you worship at a government meeting that is supposed to represent all people. sounds like this meeting is only meant to represent those of the christian faith. This is in poor taste.
  20. dodasd
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    dodasd - January 30, 2013 6:42 pm
    ZAR I get the impression that you are the one helping tear.
  21. Kinirkie
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    Kinirkie - January 30, 2013 6:12 pm
    amendment one of the Constitution of the United States or America states

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    It reads the government may Not prohibit the free exercise of religion and it cannot establish a religion of it's own. Any person has a right to their personal beliefs. I'm tired of the hateful and intolerant attitude towards the Christian faith.
    You ask us to accept you for what you believe and are in turn intolerant and hateful toward what I believe. I have the right to express my faith. The city is Not establishing a religion nor advocating for one. Under the constitution it cannot infringe on that right of people to express their faith.

    Bottom line, if you don't want to pray, don't pray. And don't go where there is prayer going on. I don't go to bars because I don't want to be around drunks. Should I sue the bars because they are full of people that are drinking? No, I either don't go or I go and I tolerate the fact that my good time is different than others.
    I'm sorry if Christian leaders are the only people who aren't afraid to stand for the rights our country was founded on. Something should be said of their Love of our country and of God.
  22. ZAR
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    ZAR - January 30, 2013 4:22 pm
    The headline should have read Christian leaders turn out to defend Christian only prayers before city council meetings! This is what the FFRF is fighting nothing more nothing less! And I say god bless em for it! We are the United States, why is it that some folks want to tear our nation apart for nothing more than petty and selfish reasons?
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