Last month, I had written a speech for our newly elected councilors, in anticipation of the usual invocation given at the beginning of City meetings. It wound up being unnecessary for the first two meetings, as Mayor Murphy twice forgot the invocation. But at the end of the second meeting, Chris Woodburn, one-time City Attorney and returning Councilor, mentioned the omission and volunteered to give the invocation at the next meeting, which he did.
Lord Jesus told his disciples, in his Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew, “[W]hen you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matt. 6:5,6)
You open these meetings with a prayer to Lord Jesus, who told you to pray, not to him, but to your Father, and in secret, not in public. You do it in a public meeting set to discuss public business, where our State and Federal constitutions forbid such action, lest you offend those who are not of your faith when you ask them to stand and listen to your prayer. You manage to offend, not only non-Christians, but those who read and love the Bible and those who love the law, including our Oregon and U.S. constitutions.
As Jesus says later in the same speech, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven….
“Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock….
“But everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand….” Matt 7:21-27, abridged. Please go read the full chapter; it’s a lovely speech.
Our constitutions forbid establishment of religion in government, and restrictions on religious practice. But our speech in public meetings is not free; we must confine ourselves to agenda items, time limits, and proper language. You should save your prayers for religious meetings; religion is not on the agenda in public meetings.
It is true that I am teaching religion in this speech, but you brought it up first, with your prayer. If you are going to continue to start your meetings this way, I will have to continue to teach you about what Lord Jesus really said.