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Cuyahoga Falls City Council hears opinions pro and con on prayer at meetings

By Steve Wiandt | Cuyahoga Falls News-Press Published: March 8, 2014 4:00 AM

Cuyahoga Falls City Council's chaplain said despite public opinions he has no plans to change the way he prays at council's next meeting on Monday

Since a public forum that took place on March 3, Councilman Terry Mader said he sought advice from friends and clergy. Several of them advised him to stop naming Jesus when he prays. He said he can't do that.

"If I, as a Christian, am embarrassed to share his name, then He is going to be embarrassed in recognizing me in my relationship with Him," Mader said, adding his relationship with Jesus is more important than any fear of offending someone in the audience.

Mader said the forum itself went smoothly and he respects everything that was said and appreciates everyone who participated. Mader said he took away two messages that night: one, that the Freedom from Religion Organization is opposed to any prayer of any kind and, two, that most of those who support the prayer support it "as long as I leave the name of Christ or Jesus out of it."

As a citizen, Mader said, his right to pray is protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Mader said when he prays at council meetings he doesn't assume to represent everyone on council. He said he has never said, "In Jesus' name we pray, amen," only, "In Jesus' name, or Christ's name, amen."

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Concerns were raised last month when city council received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation informing its members they were violating the U.S. Constitution and could be sued if they didn't stop using taxpayer time to pray.

And these concerns were discussed in a public forum attended by more than 100 people and moderated by Councilman Vic Pallotta, chairman of council's public affairs committee, on March 3.

Four people spoke in opposition to the invocation as it is currently being presented during Council meetings by Mader.

"When someone invokes a prayer at a public meeting that is meant to include everyone at the meeting and the prayer ends with words like 'in Christ's name' [or] 'in Jesus' name,' I feel left out," said Sheryl of Cuyahoga Falls, who professed to be Jewish. "… I feel that the city is sending the message to me that I don't belong there."

Aronson said she believes a prayer at the beginning of a meeting can help get everyone focused. She suggested reciting a general prayer for guidance followed by a moment of silence.

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"It's my opinion this activity violates laws pertaining to separation of church and state," said Dr. David Aronson. "… the most objectionable practice regarding opening prayers before a governmental meeting is when the prayers 'contain explicit references to a particular deity' or other symbolic religious language, and this is what our city is doing."

Dr. Aronson said he believes in praying at the church or synagogue but understands many want to hear a spiritually uplifting message prior to a public meeting. He suggested a "religiously neutral message that includes all members of our city rather than excluding members."

"Prayer is a fundamental right of every citizen of the United States of America, should they choose to do so," said Ted Shure of Cuyahoga Falls, president of Summit Christian School Board. "The members of the Freedom from Religion Organization are attempting to break this down. No one is forcing them to pray nor should they force us not to pray. The Organization has no vested interest in our community."

One of four who spoke in support of Council's prayer, Shure, said he was modifying what he had planned to say after taking under consideration other people's comments. "I believe the things that I've heard are true and we need to be inclusive of everybody. Perhaps the prayer could have that moment of silence or perhaps the prayer could simply say 'in God's name' because we are one nation under God."

"While legislative prayer may offend some -- I acknowledge that -- it in no way violates the Constitution," said Chris McCombs, pastor of Broadman Baptist Church. "However the removal of prayer would do more than offend some … It would send a message that we won't stand on principle, but that we would cower to the threats of bullies."

"I am an evangelical pastor," said Thomas Bloom, pastor of Community of Believers, "and I believe that prayer is essential, important and necessary, but I also believe that Christian charity, tolerance and acceptance of those of other faiths would require us to demonstrate charity in these matters. While I think that prayer is essential, I am not insisting it must be prayer in the name of Christ, but it must be prayer in the name of God."

Email: swiandt@recordpub.com

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redleg6 Mar 13, 2014 2:53 PM

@Bob_Allen...Read the context of Matthew 6, the whole chapter. Christ was talking about personal/individual prayer with God, not group or congregational prayer. In Matthew 14:19 Jesus prayed before a crowd of thousands more than once. Example: Matthew 14:19...And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

@shewey2....The Lord, the Creator, the Great Almighty God, answered the prayers of our President/Congress and our country men, by healing our Union, and giving America the Greatest physical blessing of any nation on earth. That is one proof of ANSWERED PRAYER.

By the President of the United States of America:
A Proclamation

Whereas the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, has by a resolution requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation; and

Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord;

And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do by this my proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite at their several places of public worship and their respective homes in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 30th day of March, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.


WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State .

*******Citation: Abraham Lincoln: "Proclamation 97 - Appointing a Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer," March 30, 1863. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=69891.

shewey2 Mar 10, 2014 9:23 PM

The only question l would like to ask of Christians is;When you pray, to  whom do you pray and for what.Are your prayers ever actually answered,if not why would you continue praying.If you knock on someones door and they dont answer do you continue knocking in the hope that someone will answer the door,even if there is no one there.All this talk about prayer seems strange to me because l have never heard of anyone having their prayers answered or even acknowledged and it just beats me why one would continue to bang your head agaist a brick wall.

Bob_Allen Mar 10, 2014 12:24 PM

The Christian God - In the Inerrant Bible - Clearly Says - In Matthew 6:5-6 - that Hypocrites Pray in Public, while Good Christians go home and Pray in Secret !!!!!

IF you support the Hypocrites Praying in Public - Obviously - you Don't support The Word of a Christian God found in Matthew 6:5-6 - ya agent of the Devil !!

anonymous_5107 Mar 10, 2014 10:06 AM

The solution is so very simple. Do what the Constitution says: keep government and religion separate. Those of you who want to pray can do it at home, in church, at the mall, the gas station, the grocery store.  And use Jesus' name all you like; you wouldn't want to "embarrass him" by leaving it out. Pray all you like, except at government functions.  If you cannot refrain for that small amount of time, perhaps we should come to your church on Sunday and conduct.the city business with which you interfered..  Both state and church benefit when each has its own realm, you see.

By the way, the Freedom from Religion Foundation does have an interest in your community; many members live here and elsewhere in the state; they also have an interest in upholding the Constitution wherever necessary.

redleg6 Mar 8, 2014 8:53 PM

Keep praying in Christ/Jesus' name, Cuyahoga Falls.

I am sure the Founding Fathers would Approve.

redleg6 Mar 8, 2014 8:43 PM

George Washington
1st U.S. President

"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."
--The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343......

John Adams
2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

"Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be."
--Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.

Thomas Jefferson
3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

"God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event."
--Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237.

John Hancock
1st Signer of the Declaration of Independence

"Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. ... Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us."
--History of the United States of America, Vol. II, p. 229.

Benjamin Franklin
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Unites States Constitution

"Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped. -Benjamin Franklin wrote this in a letter to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale University on March 9, 1790.

Samuel Adams
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Father of the American Revolution

"And as it is our duty to extend our wishes to the happiness of the great family of man, I conceive that we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world that the rod of tyrants may be broken to pieces, and the oppressed made free again; that wars may cease in all the earth, and that the confusions that are and have been among nations may be overruled by promoting and speedily bringing on that holy and happy period when the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and all people everywhere willingly bow to the sceptre of Him who is Prince of Peace."
--As Governor of Massachusetts, Proclamation of a Day of Fast, March 20, 1797.

John Quincy Adams
6th U.S. President

"The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth. Never since the foundation of the world have the prospects of mankind been more encouraging to that hope than they appear to be at the present time. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made 'bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God' (Isaiah 52:10)."
--Life of John Quincy Adams, p. 248.

Benjamin Rush
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution

"The gospel of Jesus Christ prescribes the wisest rules for just conduct in every situation of life. Happy they who are enabled to obey them in all situations!"
--The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, pp. 165-166.

Enough said.

redleg6 Mar 8, 2014 8:16 PM

"I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ."
--The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385.

user_26093 Mar 8, 2014 12:50 PM

I beg to differ. See "The Jefferson Bible"

Not everyone shares your belief. And not everyone should be subjected to your proselytizing. Especially in a government forum.

If you want a theocracy then go live in Iran.

redleg6 Mar 8, 2014 11:09 AM

Jesus is, was a Jew.

The founding fathers believed in Jesus, the Creator of all that is.

Question: Why do most families in America have a copy of the Hebrew Bible somewhere in their homes?

user_26093 Mar 8, 2014 9:26 AM

If the councilman is sincere about his intentions, then he can keep his prayer to himself and accomplish his goal.

I suspect he is more interested in flaunting his religious beliefs,and provoking those who do not share them.

user_26093 Mar 8, 2014 8:01 AM

If the councilman wants to seek divine guidance he can do it silently within his own thoughts.

I suspect he is more interested in drawing attention to himself , flaunting his religious beliefs, and provoking those who do not share his faith.