Prayer has its public place
Last week’s article “Without a prayer” recounted Marilyn Hackett’s unfortunate success in eliminating prayer from the Franklin town meeting. She is quoted as saying that while she is not against prayer, she does not believe it belongs “in a public governmental space, especially one where citizens go to vote.”
Fortunately, the United States Congress has a very different position on the value of prayer. The House chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, a Jesuit, or a guest chaplain opens the day’s proceedings with a prayer in the very chamber where members vote. The day starts with a prayer in the Senate chamber as well. Barry C. Black, a Seventh Day Adventist, currently serves as the senators’ chaplain.
While the religious denominations of the House and Senate chaplains have changed over time, the tradition of starting their work with prayer, in a governmental space, where votes take place, remains a time-honored practice. On Jan. 15, 2013, Father Conroy’s opening prayer in the House of Representatives included the following: “The people’s House gathers today and celebrates in its gathering the wonder of our constitutional form of government.” He reminded all of us that the Constitution and prayer can and do coexist.
PAULINE J. AUSTIN