Last time we checked in on the Oklahoma legislature, some members were trying (unsuccessfully) to remove from the official record a session-opening prayer delivered by Rev. Scott H. Jones, pastor of Oklahoma City’s Cathedral of Hope who happened to mention his “loving partner and fiance, Michael.”
No objection was made after a more recent opening-session prayer delivered by Rev. Wade Burleson, pastor of Enid’s Emmanuel Baptist Church who happened to mention his disdain for atheists and secular humanists: “Let the secular humanists lead the socialists, let the atheists lead the totalitarian governmental regimes, but may only believers in God lead our democracy,” Burleson said.
I think they call that a theocracy. Burleson’s prayer reminds me of a line from a song by Oklahoma native Garth Brooks: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
In his prayerful remarks, Burleson singled out one atheist in particular, Dr. Richard Dawkins — well-known evolutionary biologist, On Faith panelist and author of “The God Delusion” — who had spoken earlier in the month at the University of Oklahoma.
One Oklahoma legislator had tried to get his colleagues to adopt resolutions opposing the Dawkins invitation and condemning Dawkins and evolution. The resolutions never came to a vote, but afterward, Rep. Rebecca Hamilton began an investigation into the university’s handling of the Dawkins invitation.
Which reminds me of something another native Oklahoman, Will Rogers, once said: “About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.”
I’ve never understood why so many politicians feel the need to sponsor public prayers at non-religious public gatherings. Do they think God can only hear prayers spoken out loud in groups? Is their God hard of hearing?
And why turn secular gatherings into sectarian proving grounds? Are they merely pandering for votes or do they think their particular religious beliefs should supercede the nonsectarian principles enshrined in the constitution?