Last week, before the business of the the House of Representatives was allowed to begin, Reverend Kenneth L. Simon of New Bethel Baptist Church in Youngstown, Ohio rose to give the following, the official congressional prayer of the day:
“Gracious God, we come thanking You today for all of Your blessings and the privilege You have given each of us to serve You by serving Your people. We thank You for our President, Barack Obama, who You have called and appointed to lead this Nation for such a time as this.”
This prayer was not merely a religious ritual. It contained a political message straight out of Medieval Times. It reaffirmed the ancient political philosophy referred to by historians as the divine right of kings. This political theory claims that leaders are not accountable to the people over whom they exercise power, because leaders are chosen by God.
It’s unnerving that such prayers are routinely presented before the U.S. Congress, as an official act of government. Yes, it’s an unconstitional violation of the First Amendment, which clearly states that Congress must not engage in any action that establishes religion, as these prayers do. Beyond that problem, the nature of prayers such as the one made by Reverend Simon last week are a problem.
I shudder to think of the impact it could have upon members of Congress to be told, day after day, that they have been personally chosen by God, and that the government of the United States of America exists to enforce the will of God.