No more prayer in Jesus’ name? One pastor speaks about removing his name from commissioners’ invocation list

By AMANDA GREENE
Religion News Wilmington

It wasn’t offensive. It was just odd.

That’s how the Rev. Steve Hein of St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church characterized the recent clarification of a law that prohibits sectarian prayer in public meetings in North Carolina.

Attached to Hein’s annual invitation to pray at the beginning of New Hanover County Commissioners meetings was a note.

“It said I could do a generalized prayer but could not use Jesus or Christ in it,” he said in a phone interview. “My response was that my prayers are done in the name of Jesus so it seemed fruitless to say them in any other way.”

The law states that prayer at public meetings cannot favor one specific deity that is identified with a particular sect or religion. Read more about the law here.

So Hein removed his name from the invocation list. Another five pastors around the city have also removed their names in protest, said County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield last week.

Prayer to start public meetings is a widespread practice throughout North Carolina at boards of education, county commissioners and city council meetings. Sometimes local clergy are invited to give the prayer, and other times board members give the prayer.

Hein said he understood the idea of the separation of church and state.

“No, we’re not supposed to have a state religion. I get that. But I don’t see how one prayer at one meeting establishes a state religion,”  he said.

Hein is worried that the law could hamper a pastor or spiritual leader’s freedom of religion.

“It seems like there’s a specific prohibition against praying to Jesus Christ,” he said. “If a person wants to talk about their faith in a public place, that shouldn’t be offensive. It’s just very odd. If it’s who they are, they should be allowed to express who they are.”

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2 responses to “No more prayer in Jesus’ name? One pastor speaks about removing his name from commissioners’ invocation list

  1. This ruling does not hamper a pastor or spiritual leader’s freedom of religion. Said pastor or spiritual leader can choose to participate in a moment of silence/prayer at the beginning of a governmental body’s pubic meeting or not. It is his or her choice. He/she also can preach and express his/her religious beliefs in his own church; he/she can even establish a church, if he/she so chooses. What he/she may not do is mention a specific religion, deity or a deity’s representative, or read from that religion’s book or tenets in that religion’s name in an official capacity at the beginning of or during or at the end of an official governmental meeting. It is such because the people who look to that governmental body for governance and fair treatment under the law may believe that their beliefs and needs aren’t included in that body’s deliberations or actions. There’s an old adage that there is a place and a time for everything under the heavens.

  2. Thank you again for commenting and reading Nan!

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