We’ve heard a lot of noise lately about God & religion in public settings. There are ACLU challenges being levied against public prayer by our state legislature, and in the Forsyth and Rowan County Boards of Commissioners. We even have internal cessation of prayer within our own Board of Commissioners, without legal challenge or so much as a ‘friendly’ letter from the ACLU. Then there are questions about local church involvement in after-school educational programs.
Some of the discussion perplexes from an ideological perspective.
It comes as no surprise that the liberal left in this country, often represented in legal matters by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is openly and aggressively seeking to eliminate all forms of religious activity from the affairs of state. In North Carolina there are a number of recent actions initiated by the ACLU (and by Americans United for Separation of Church and State) attempting to stop the Forsyth County commissioners from opening their meetings with sectarian prayer. After gaining ground in this case at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, now the ACLU is emboldened and is trying to intimidate the NC House of Representatives from praying in Jesus’ name. Similarly, the commissioners in Rowan County have been served notice of an impending ACLU lawsuit. It seems these inferior courts are failing to grasp the full measure of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1983 majority decision in Marsh v. Chambers, in which the Justices concluded the Court will not parse the words of legislative prayer. Period. Eventually, I imagine the High Court will be compelled to weigh in on these appellate cases and reaffirm Marsh v. Chambers to assure its precedent is being properly applied.
But more troubling is the growing evidence we have clergy who support a complete and extensive separation of church and state, even to the point of dis-inviting God from our public meetings. This is both ill-advised and dangerous. God has blessed our country, state, and county with rich blessings over the past 300 years of growth and prosperity. If we dare to exclude God from His natural involvement in all our activities – whether in the home, the church, or the public arena – He will turn His face from us, just as the Old Testament prophets in the Holy Bible cautioned. Some of our so-called pastors are leading us down that path to perdition in advocating we take God out of all public mattters (so as not to offend non-believers). This is truly a disturbing trend. But wait, it gets even better.
Some of those same clergy are, themselves, dragging the state right back into their religious affairs. Thus, the source of my perplexity.
How can a local pastor support not praying in a public setting, and then hold partisan political rallies at his church? How can that same pastor (along with two others) solicit and receive millions of dollars in federal and state grant funding for after-school programs hosted in their church buildings (when our own secular Boys and Girls Club was discouraged from applying for those same grants)? And how does a pastor, who happens to be Chairman of the Lee County Board of Education, reconcile accepting those grant funds for his church’s Community Learning Center when it smacks of a conflict of interest? After all, as County School Board Chairman, he has a strong position of influence with the Department of Public Instruction, which doles out these funds. Isn’t it an obvious conflict of interest to be listed on a contract as the direct and primary recipient of DPI funding for a community learning center while simultaneously holding a position of potential influence about where those funds are to be awarded?
Local citizens are also curious about rumors the same pastor is being moved with just a few days’ notice from Sanford to another AME Zion church in Bunnlevel, right at the time said pastor is seeking re-election to the Lee County Board of Education. Is this sudden move related to his receipt of grant funds from the state? Is it because of his intense political involvement? Or is it for some other reason or purpose? Hopefully, all of this will be sorted out before the spring primary so voters can decide whether they might condone the good pastor’s political behavior, juxtaposing church, state and religion in his capacity as BOE Chairman.