Last week, while I read how incoming County Commissioner Peggy Littleton, in her first meeting as such, made an appeal for more frequent prayer to open future meetings, I couldn’t help but think how much I wished Michael Merrifield would have won that spot.
Merrifield, a term-limited legislator, opposed Littleton in November’s election for District 5 County Commissioner; he lost. But if he hadn’t, I’m pretty sure he would not have opened his first public meeting as County Commissioner by saying, “I’d like to encourage my colleagues to have, at a minimum, prayer together every Tuesday…I’d like to have us…start out truly with God first, country second and service as our third most important item we do.”
I know it’s constitutional – a 1980s Supreme Court case ruled that legislative bodies can start session with prayer without violating the U.S. Constitution – but just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Opening your first public meeting as a County Commissioner with a headline-grabbing action like appealing for more prayer needlessly isolates your constituents who don’t believe in “God,” believe in a different “God,” or just believe in the importance of the concept of separation of church and state.
Is it “crazy liberal” of me to want my elected officials to spend their time talking about things other than the need for religion during their legislative sessions? It’s not that religion isn’t important to me, I just think that it doesn’t need to exist in the legislative sphere and I don’t support politicians who do.
Despite all the headlines, in actuality, Littleton’s appeal is of very little consequence. It simply means that every Tuesday and Thursday Commissioner meetings will now begin with prayer. The symbol of it all is unfortunate though: our city and county already have a negative image as an intolerant place of Bible-thumpers and religious zealots; stories like these certainly don’t help.