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Sussex County, Delaware county council defends use of Lord's Prayer in federal court test

Sussex County, Delaware county council defends use of Lord's Prayer in federal court test

Can you pray the Lord's Prayer in county chambers? The Lord's Prayer is under fire in Sussex County, Delaware, which has been recited promptly at 10:00am every Tuesday for the last few years by the county council, and is heading for its first federal test filed by a group of Sussex residents.   The county council is arguing that the Lord's prayer is a universal prayer, and thus belongs to no one religion.   DelawareOnline reports:

Some religious historians and pastors disagree.

"It was never intended to be a universal public prayer," said Charles Kammer, a Lutheran minister and professor of religious studies at the College of Wooster, in Ohio.

"This prayer is clearly embedded in Christian history, and really doesn't show up anywhere else."

Oral arguments are slated for January on the county's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's suit.  The motion includes citations from the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and Sikh and Buddhist prayers, comparing them line by line to show that its principles are universal and inoffensive.

"In offering the Lord's Prayer, there is no specific call to, or statement of belief in, Jesus Christ, Allah, Yahweh, Ik Onkar, Brahman, Ahura Mazda, Gaia, L. Ron Hubbard, the Baha'i Unfathomable Mystery or any other specific or sectarian deity, prophet or saint," wrote Wilmington attorney Joseph Shannon, representing the county.

In a test set in 1983, the county is arguing that prayer is permissible under Marsh v. Chambers, the seminal church-state separation ruling because it is not used to proselytize.

Even atheists are being brought into the fray:

The Rev. Don Schaefer, pastor of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Rehoboth Beach, said prayer shouldn't be mandated, for the simple reason that it has a deep meaning to believers — simply repeating the words isn't praying.

"When you pray together in a group, the unspoken is that when you're saying the words together, you all agree on what those words mean," Schaefer said.

He said the issue for people who oppose the practice is likely not the content of the prayer, but the prayers themselves.

"Even atheists could probably agree that the prayer has 'universal principles,' " he said. "Things like asking for forgiveness, protection and sustenance are an acknowledgement that we are dependent upon the provision of something beyond ourselves."

About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • annata

    How is the plea for deliverance towards an imaginary being Universal? It's Universal for unbelievers. Asking for forgiveness for a vague transgression, against whom is anybodies guess, when the only one you can ask for forgiveness, is the one you have transgressed against, is certainly not my idea of an Universal principle!

  • Buddy

    In reference to the "Lord's prayer", read Matthew 6:7, 8… don't be repetitious in your supplications

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