Prayer Outside the Supreme Court
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What's councilwoman at-large Rebecca Williams doing that has caused Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs to become so upset? Well, she "grunts" during meetings, doesn't salute the American flag, and doesn't participate in prayer. How horrible! How can a person even consider themselves to be American if they don't participate in official, government prayers during official, government meetings?
Oh, right, that's their constitutional right because, you know, governments have no authority to promote or endorse prayers.
The councilwoman says she does stand during the pledge but doesn't salute and she stands during prayers but doesn't pray. She says her Christian beliefs preclude her from pledging any flag. And she believes that it's a violation of church and state to pray at government meetings.
"There are many municipal councils that don't pledge or pray before a meeting. I don't see why it's necessary," Williams said. "There have been residents who have come to the council to say it's rather superfluous." ...
"We have had several people call my office from as far away as Connecticut and say 'thank you for standing up for the flag and what it stands for,'" [Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs] said. ...
For Williams, it's a first. She's been on the council more than year, and no one ever mentioned the issue to her. And, despite a lot of personal attacks, she doesn't want to explain herself -- she has a right to religion, and a right to keep that religion private, she says.
"I've been getting e-mails from all across the country. People telling me 'get the hell out of our county, you're not an American, you should step down.'" she said. "I haven't responded to any of this."
The news report argues that this dispute is part of a much larger feud between the mayor and the council. This may be true, though the news report also points out that this sort of dispute has arisen numerous times before so it certainly doesn't need another background issue to explain it.
However, even if we assume that there is a larger feud that is the cause of this, it only makes Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs look worse -- and she already looks pretty bad. You see, it's bad enough to try to stomp all over another person's constitutional rights when you disagree that they should be allowed to exercise those rights. But I think it's worse to stomp all over those simply because you want to hurt the person.
You have a right not to recite a pledge to the flag, especially the religious pledge which America currently tries to impose on citizens. You also have a right not to pray. Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs either doesn't know that, which makes her far too ignorant to be allowed to hold political office, or she does know it but doesn't care, in which case she is far too evil to be allowed to hold political office. Either way, Sharon Robinson-Briggs needs to be removed from office for the good of everyone in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Remember this story the next time politicians insist that government prayers during government meetings are constitutional because no one will be required to participate in those government prayers. That not only isn't relevant, but it isn't even a situation which will likely last long. Sooner or later, people will complain about someone not participating and insist that they either be forced to join in the prayers or be kicked out.
That's assuming, of course, that anyone who wouldn't join in with the government prayers would feel comfortable with being part of that government body in the first place.