The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has weighed in on the issue of opening government meetings with sectarian prayers.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday, the ERLC told the Supreme Court that prohibiting Christian pastors from delivering a prayer to start official town meetings would effectively impose Unitarianism on the nation.
“The Town of Greece case is about a government seeking to establish a state-ordered civil religion that crowds out the most basic rights of freedom of speech,” ERLC President, Russell D. Moore said in a statement. “That is not what our ancestors, and their allies among the American Founders, meant by religious liberty. We shouldn’t have a state-sponsored Baptist church, I agree, but we shouldn’t have a state-sponsored Unitarian church either, and that’s what some are attempting.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled last year that Greece, New York violated the First Amendment by holding Christian prayers at town board meetings. Though a Christian pastor delivered nearly every opening prayer, the city insisted it was not favoring Christianity over other religions.
“The government doesn’t write the prayers, and doesn’t coerce anyone’s conscience,” Moore added. “To object to this is to insist not only that the government be neutral to religious expression but to insist that the government be hostile to religious expression by citizens. We stand with those who believe in the freedom of speech, including religious speech, in the public square as a prized part of our liberty.”
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