Talk about a never-ending story.
Last Thursday, Third District Congressman Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.) introduced legislation that would allow public officials to pray openly at public meetings and to be able to invoke a specific deity should they so choose to.
A little background: Barrett’s Third District covers the westernmost part of South Carolina, from Aiken County north to Oconee County, and borders Georgia and Tennessee.
The district is also home to an ongoing saga that began almost two years ago when a practicing Wiccan priestess objected to the Great Falls, S.C., Town Council invoking Jesus’ name before council meetings. She sued after being stonewalled by the council members and eventually prevailed in federal court last August when the court declared such prayers unconstitutional.
That decision spawned efforts in other counties in S.C. to get public prayer back in public meetings — reversing years of established court precedent and overriding good manners and culminating with Barrett’s action last Thursday.
Barrett told The State, “I assume some people will say this is an extreme measure.”
Whatever gave him that idea, wondered The Eye? He continued with what’s become the standard line every time some whacko religious conservative wants to excise a particular demographic group from civil discourse: “We’re trying to bring it back to what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.”
Uh, most of those guys owned slaves. Does he want to bring that back while he’s at it?
Following the introduction of his legislation, Barrett was questioned about those citizens who could possibly be offended by such public prayer and deity invocation.
His response was especially choice: “The person doesn’t have to be in the room.”
Barrett’s legislation would allow public officials “to pray in public as they see fit, no matter their religion” and would remove legal challenges from federal court to the state courts.
He justifies his position by saying that while Congress is prohibited from “an establishment of religion” by the U.S. Constitution, laws limiting the free expression of religion are equally verboten.
The Constitution could, ostensibly, be amended in the manner in which Barrett desires. However, the end result would be a morass of conflicting state court decisions.
Kinda like gay marriage, mused The Eye.
Perhaps the sanest reaction to Barrett’s big idea came from a man of the cloth.
The Rev. Joseph Darby of Charleston’s Morris Brown AME Church told The State, “That’s way too close to ‘If you don’t like the way we do it here down South, go home.'”
With regard to public prayer, Darby continued, “If I, as a Christian minister, can refer to ‘the Creator’ when praying in public, so can a public official.”
Darby ended his comments saying, “I’m bothered by Christians who think Jesus is so small they have to pass a law.”
Indeed, thought The Eye.
Besides, if anyone wants to pray in public and needs a place to do it, just hit the Yellow Pages — these places, they’re called churches.