Letter: No Place for Public Prayer

To the Editor:

Margaret Drye (“Town Meeting and Public Prayer,” March 2) continues to write in her tradition of blithe disregard for pluralism in this country. She argues in favor of prayer at Town Meetings by pointing out that we’ve always done it that way. She also cites clergy and refers to her own Christian religious beliefs. We wonder if Drye would be equally enthused for public prayer if the majority of people in her town happened to hold religious beliefs different from her own.

Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia law professor, elegantly expressed the views of Americans United for Separation of Church and State: “We … support the right of citizens to participate in local government without having to take part in someone else’s religious worship.” Citizens have no choice but to attend local government meetings when they are seeking board action on community issues, taking an oath of office or receiving public honors. And because the attendance for these meetings is often small, everyone present can see who participates in a prayer and who does not. Susan Galloway, the plaintiff in the case “Town of Greece v. Galloway,” cited in Drye’s commentary, described her experience when she refused to stand up during public prayer: “There were 100 eyes looking at me. It singles you out.” We would like to assure Drye that no one is preventing her or any American from publicly expressing religious faith. But town government and places where people assemble to talk about how their taxes are spent is not the place for organized prayer.

Sharon Racusin

Chapter Leader, VT/NH Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Carolyn Gordon

Member, VT/NH Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State