Ensuring The House Prayer Never Again Offends Rep. Franson

Minnesota State Representative Mary Franson (R- Alexandria) – she who compares providing Food Stamps to low income children with feeding wild animals – is once again speaking out. But this time, I agree with her, kinda sorta.

Franson and I both find prayers in the House chamber to be offensive. The agreement ends there.

Franson has long felt that Earth Day is a Pagan holiday, which offends her Christian faith. Therefore, she was not thrilled to hear Minnesota House Chaplain Grady St. Dennis mentioning Earth Day and the BP oil spill in the prayer that recently opened House proceedings. As the Star Tribune reported, Representative Franson Tweeteth that St. Dennis’s prayer:

“may as well been dedicated to “Mother Earth”, coincidence? I think not. 2nd offensive prayer in a month.”

The prayer Franson finds offensive, I find inspired. And I can guarantee we’re never going to convince each other.

Such disagreement is the rule, not the exception. Minnesotans don’t agree on who God is, what He wants us to do, and what He thinks about the issues. It’s not just that Christians, non-Christians, doubters and non-believers don’t agree. Christians and Christians don’t agree. People sitting in the same aisle of the same church don’t even agree.

And resolving this disagreement about God is not what the Minnesota House does. It’s not their job.

So why have an official daily House prayer? Why bring any kind of religion into the chamber — Mary Franson’s brand of Christianity, John Marty’s brand of Christianity, Keith Ellison’s Islam, Frank Hornstein’s Judaism, Pete Stark’s Atheism or anyone else’s spiritual viewpoint?

Just leave it out. Let people say a silent prayer to themselves, if they so choose. But keep all officially sponsored, publicly expressed religious pronouncements out of the legislative chambers.

I presume that official government-sponsored and -organized prayer in the legislative chambers must have been determined to be legally permissible. But that doesn’t make it advisable. Heaven knows, the Legislature has enough difficult issues to resolve without adding unresolvable theological questions to their “to do” list.

This is the only way I can guarantee that Mary Franson and I won’t be offended again by what we hear in the daily House of Representatives prayer. If she and her colleagues aren’t willing to separate the work of religious institutions from the work of our democracy, I guarantee both of us will be offended on a regular basis.

- Loveland

4 Responses

  1. Amen to that!

  2. Joe: You are really going to cringe at this, then – the National Day or Prayer coming up in May: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Day_of_Prayer

    • The wording of the Prayer Day proclamation is actually pretty tame. It declares a day “on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”

      “May?” “As individuals?” No mention of which group’s God shall be worshiped?

      I can’t believe the Bachmannites haven’t tightened up that language.

  3. To actually make the cut for avoiding the establishment clause, a prayer would have to be so stripped of religious content as to resemble the legendary agnostic’s prayer: “God if there is a god, save my soul if I have a soul.” Religious conservatives tend to go bonkers, e.g. the “War on Christmas,” if religious references are avoided and go even more bonkers if the religious content is bland and inclusive.

    On the specific issue, Ian McHarg, landscape architect and urban planner, held that one of the things screwing up ecologically sane planning was that over the centuries Christians took Genesis 1: 28, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them [Adam and the Eve who was not to be created until the next Chapter], ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” as a sort of license to pillage the environment.

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