Who could be against prayer? Not even most atheists would begrudge people the right to bow their heads to say grace, to ask for help on an exam or to beg for guidance. Plus, the growing numbers of people identifying as “spiritual but nonreligious” find prayer to be a link to a deity, to their ancestors or to nature.
The many denominations of Christianity and a multitude of other religions require weaving prayer into daily life.
As a child raised in the Presbyterian form of Christianity, I was used to reserved, collective prayer on Sundays and frequent, private prayer on the other days.
When I witnessed my high school world history teacher, a Muslim, kneeling head to the ground on a prayer rug behind his desk, I was first startled but then overwhelmed by admiration for his faithfulness.
In 1990, when I was in the balcony of Birmingham’s legendary 16th Street Baptist Church for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, I was inspired by the arm-raising shouts to heaven and, amid them, the handful of Jewish men wearing kippahs, nodding to an unheard beat, murmuring quietly in Hebrew. None but the most hard-hearted and intolerant would be against such prayer.
So who could be against “The Response,” a prayer rally scheduled for Jan. 24 in LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center?
Some are understandably against it because the organization paying thousands of dollars to reserve the arena at Louisiana’s flagship university is a hate group.
The American Family Association is a band of radical Christians who blame LGBT folks for everything from the Nazis to Hurricane Katrina.
Regardless, AFA’s satisfied LSU’s rental policies. And an academic institution dedicated to uncomfortable, unpopular ideas would appear monumentally hypocritical if it shut down the event.
Lastly, the First Amendment protects everyone’s rights of peaceful assembly and free speech — protecting even the peaceful invocation of God’s wrath.
Here’s the clincher, though: Gov. Bobby Jindal’s hiding cleverly behind religion and the First Amendment for personal and political gain. And he’s doing so as our state’s highest-ranking government official, even inviting people to the rally on his office’s letterhead, complete with the state seal. Plus, his political appointees and paid political advisers, such as Rolfe McCollister and Timmy Teepell, have been securing the event.
It’s doubtful the thinly veiled political rally will be shut down on academic or constitutional grounds.
Therefore, I must also exercise my First Amendment rights 1) to support our LGBT relatives and neighbors and 2) to protest the governor’s frequent abuse of both religion and government.
I pray that I’ll see many other concerned citizens outside the PMAC on Jan. 24.