"Equal Access Prayers"
dsg at PRCHFE.ORG
Wed Mar 15 07:49:20 PST 2000
>>> "Volokh, Eugene" <VOLOKH at mail.law.ucla.edu> 03/14 2:24 PM >>>
I ask again: How is this any sort of "equal access prayer"? It
seems to me a system under which those sects which have the support of at
least one Florida state legislator get to give prayers, while sects which
have the support of no legislators don't.
This seems to me to be a system that prefers certain religious
groups selected by government officials over other religious groups.
Certainly it's a far cry from a true open forum a la Lamb's Chapel,
Rosenberger, and Pinette. Maybe it's constitutional, but not because it is
a truly nonpreferential system that treats all religions (much less all
religious and nonreligious perspectives) equally.
My point was that this is NOT a completely open forum. Nonetheless, it is comperable to Rosenberger in the sense that it is open to the members of that community (ie the legislators) not to everyone in the State. I don't think that Rosenberger compelled UVa to open its doors to every member of the community in Charlottesville or Virginia. Does it favor religious groups selected by members of the legislature? Certainly. It is part of their group practice (ie the legislature as a group.) The effort is not to treat all religion and non-religion perspectives equally, but to treat all of the individual legislators the same.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Guinn [SMTP:dsg at PRCHFE.ORG]
> Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2000 6:09 AM
> To: RELIGIONLAW at listserv.ucla.edu
> Subject: Re: "Equal Access Prayers"
> It strikes me that the discussion on equal access has focused on the
> invocation as an open public forum. However, as I understand the history
> of legislative prayer, it arose out of the wishes of the legislators to
> solemnize and seek blessings upon their actions. While it occurs as part
> of a public event in a public forum, it is primarily a part of their
> private associational rights.
> While the legislature is not a pure private association, neither is it a
> simple bureaucracy being acted upon by a separate sovereign. This
> situation is clearly different from a school graduation ceremony or other
> compelled worship situation in the sense that it involves actions by
> people with sovereign authority on their collective behalf, as opposed to
> a school situation where the state is overtly or subtly acting on the
> student body.
> Given the fact that this is an exercise of the legislators associational
> rights, the Florida approach which allows each member in turn to designate
> a leader does seem to me to be an equitable, equal access approach that
> respects both the collective decision to begin with prayer or devotion (I
> would hope it includes the option of non-religious solemnization
> ceremonies) and the individual interests of legislators to have their
> particular religious orientation publicly honored.
> I tend to believe that argument over whether or not a prayer is sectarian,
> as under Marsh, would be decisive where there is only one religious prayer
> leader provided for the group. However, allowing invocations that
> represent all participants through rotating access accomplishes the same
> goal with far less damage to the nature of prayer itself and the inherent
> problem of having the government dictate content.
> David E. Guinn, JD, PhD
> The Park Ridge Center
> 211 E. Ontario, Suite 800
> Chicago, IL 60611
> deg at prchfe.org
> (312) 266-2222
> (312)266-6086 (fax)
> web page: www.prchfe.org
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