As believers in Jesus Christ, we are instructed to, “Rejoice for evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thes.5:16-18).” Unfortunately, this divine command of God was recently challenged in Butler County.
At a meeting of the Knoch School Board on January 4, a former candidate for the school board, challenged the “legality” of the board’s “longtime” practice of having one its members pray before its meetings. The challenger argued that the practice of a public prayer before the board meetings violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and therefore is illegal. This position is without merit; and here’s why.
The language of the religious clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is very clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The challenge to the policy of the Knoch School Board was based on the 1962 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court (Engel v. Vitale), which ruled that school-sponsored prayer in public schools violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
In my opinion, the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 was out of line with the original intent of the founders. The language (and intent) of the establishment clause is very clear. The framers of the Constitution considered the free exercise of religion to be outside the parameters of government oversight and intrusion. The right of a free people to freely exercise their religion (faith) is inviolate.
To its credit, the Knoch School board is not backing down. The president of the board stated the following: “We do not feel we are doing anything illegal, and will continue with the invocation at the board meetings.” Let us all take heed of this example.
As believers, when our “free exercise of religion (faith)” is challenged, let us “stand fast” and heed the example (and words) of Peter and John when they were called (once again) before the Sanhedrin and commanded not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus: “You must decide whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, for we cannot stop talking about what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:18).” Stand fast, church, stand fast!
Rev. Larry Thompson, Pastor
Martinsburg Church of Bruin