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Cross posted from Rational Resistance:

We've written about this before: a local resident, Marilyn Hackett, successfully sued the town of Franklin and this year won an injunction preventing the town fathers from beginning their annual Town Meeting with a prayer.

It was a heroic effort and the news reports at the time documented the abuse she was subjected to based on her willingness to stand up for her principles. Perhaps most shockingly, one of the suggestions from the town was that if she doesn't like the prayer she just shouldn't show up at Town Meeting. That's right, in the view of some of her fellow townspeople it would be reasonable to condition her right to participate in the governance of her town on her acceding to their religious views.

Today the Burlington Free Press has an update, and guess what: bigotry and intolerance are still rampant in Franklin.

I think the article is behind their paywall, but here are a couple of key quotes:

“It’s almost like a joke — a cheap shot — to try to knock that thing out of there.”
“I said right from the beginning to have an outsider come into town and all of a sudden she’s changed the way Franklin runs its Town Meeting,” Hartman said. “I think it’s awful.”
"If she (Hackett) was somebody who wanted to be a part of that town, she could’ve overlooked that."
In addition, the story by Sally Pollak makes clear that Marilyn Hackett continues to be harassed, including by students at the school where she works in nearby Richford.

What do we learn from this episode? A few things.

First, if there were any doubt, today's story illustrates just how brave someone has to be to stand up for principle, especially in a small town.

Second, it confirms the heroism of Marilyn Hackett.

Finally, everything in this story demonstrates how important it was for Marilyn Hackett and the ACLU to bring this case. It's not the people who go along with the majority, who hold popular opinions, who need the Constitution's protection. It is the minorities, people who can't get their way without the protection of the law, the courts, and civil libertarians.

Originally posted to JackMcCullough on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 07:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by These Green Mountains.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The rights of the minority should never be left up (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happy camper, skrekk

    to the votes of the majority. For any reason.

    "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. We must put our hands on it and we must bend it in the direction of justice." MLK

    by mindara on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 07:54:27 AM PDT

  •  What about the right to pray? (0+ / 0-)

    Or is this about separation of church and state? Are they bigoted pray-ers?

    If ten people like prayer and one person doesn't , no one can damn compromise without a dang lawsuit? Really?

    Or is it a case of if we let one town council pray, then everybody's gonna wanna start praying?

    Explain the conflict please. I never did understand why "live and let live" goes out the window in stories like this.

    **I've got Magic Ladyparts**

    by consciousempress on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 08:05:47 AM PDT

    •  supposed to pray in private (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rja, skrekk, BlackSheep1

      seems like some guy named jesus said something about praying in private, you know, rather than hypocritical grandstanding...
      and yes, it is about separation of church and state!!!! duh!

      •  Duh!! ? Really? (0+ / 0-)

        FYI, elmo:

        I taught for 20+years. In different schools, there would often be prayers offered before assemblies, etc. In Atlanta, they opened with stadium-wide prayer, often given by a student, at the annual district "convocation." I enjoyed these prayers, though my spiritual leanings are in fact to the wind religions of ancient West Africa (i.e. Yoruba). I never felt offended. At all.

        So, no, duh, I don't get it. Slow your roll and be more polite in your answers, like these other kind folks below. Peace.

        **I've got Magic Ladyparts** And I keep a separate pair in my binder!

        by consciousempress on Thu Oct 18, 2012 at 04:40:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's not just ten people wanting to pray (4+ / 0-)

      on private property or on private time. It's ten people wanting to pray on public property on public time at a public town council meeting.

      Why should anyone be forced to attend a prayer as a condition of participating in a public meeting?

      Turn it around for a minute. If there were ten Wiccans on that council who wanted to open each public meeting with an invocation to the goddess, the shrieking from Christians would be so loud that you could hear it from one end of this country to the other.

    •  An annual town meeting is a governent function. (5+ / 0-)

      It is run by government officials acting in their official capacity as said officials and not as private citizens.  As such, prayer in such a setting inevitably shows favoritism towards the religion of the person(s) offering the prayer and is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

      Non-sectarian prayer is not an option because there are some Christians who believe that any prayer not offered in the name of Jesus is not a valid prayer and hence not efficacious.

      The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have been bringing similar lawsuits for years, and as far as I know, they have won every time.

      The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects the right of every citizen, including government officials when they are not acting in an official capacity, to pray for their town individually or in groups before or after the meeting if they are inclined to do so.  They are even free to offer silent prayer during the meeting.  Indeed, silent prayer can never be enjoined, for how would anyone know a silent prayer is being offered?  

      What town officials cannot do is make prayer an official part of the meeting and require everyone present to listen to it if they do not wish to participate.  It is equally out of bounds to ask those who might be offended to leave temporarily, for doing so would reduce those people to second-class citizens.

      Jesus counseled his followers to pray in private quite specifically so as not to be like the religious leaders of his day who liked to make a public show of their piety.  In my experience, those who howl the loudest about the need for government-sponsored prayer are far more likely to be acting out of the same motivation as the aforementioned Pharisees than out of sincere religious devotion or authentic concern for the well-being of their towns.

      Given the fact that Hackett is being harassed for her stand, I'd say that the answer to your question is yes, they are bigoted prayers.

    •  This is the government (0+ / 0-)

      In this circumstance a gathering of private citizens at any location unconnected to the government was obviously unacceptable to the town. It was their insistence that the prayer had to be conducted by, and as a part of, the governing body of the town (the assembled population at Town Meeting) that caused the impasse here.

    •  promotion of a particular religion over any (0+ / 0-)

      other, including none, is Unconstitutional.
      Stare decisis, even.

      Imagine, consciousempress, being made to participate in a prayer that you did not embrace from childhood.

      LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

      by BlackSheep1 on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 02:30:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What, she deserves a medal? Sorry--I'm not (0+ / 0-)

    going to lionize Ms. Hackett for this tempest in a teapot.

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