May 11, 2014 (FP) — After a favorable ruling by a federal judge, the council of the majority-Muslim township of Stewart, Michigan has agreed to continue a practice of beginning all town governmental meetings with an exclusively Islamic call to prayer led by an imam from the Islamic Center of Stewart. Judge Aalim Davis ruled that Islamic prayers by Stewart government officials at official government events is permissible despite the constitutional First Amendment guarantee against the establishment of religion by a government.
“The town of Stewart does not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports with our tradition,” Judge Davis wrote in his opinion. Although at one point the Imam characterized objectors in the Town of Stewart as a “minority” who are “ignorant of the history of our country,” while another lamented that other towns did not have “Allah-fearing” leaders, Judge Davis concluded that the practice was permissible because it “reflects and embraces our tradition.” Although Judge Davis is himself a practicing Muslim, he insists that his religious identity has no bearing on his decision.
Explaining the practice, Stewart Town Supervisor Ali Reilich advises non-Muslim residents of Stewart to “leave the room” if they feel uncomfortable with the Islamic opening ceremonies for town government meetings. In his opinion, Judge Aalim Davis agreed that Christians and non-believers should simply leave if they don’t like the Islamic prayers during government meetings:
“Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy. And should they remain, their quiet acquiescence will not, in light of our traditions, be interpreted as an agreement with the words or ideas expressed.”
The above is, of course, a fictional article … but it is based on actual events in which Christians successfully grabbed the powers of government to enforce the same practice. All I have done is to change the names of participants, then replace references to Christianity with references to Islam. If the label “Islamic” is put in place of the label “Christian,” does that change how you feel? Should it?
The fiction of the above article should be obvious. After all, in the United States a town council would never be permitted to repeatedly open its proceedings with exclusively Islamic religious ceremony. Indeed, in New York State people rose up voiciferously to oppose American Muslims who only wanted to open and operate a private Mosque of their own. But in stark contrast, an all-active-Christian majority of the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the government of the Town of Greece may institute Christian prayer in its government proceedings. The approval of Christian government prayer amid active opposition to expression of Muslim faith is, as the court’s dissenting minority pointed out, a sign that these Christian prayers are not simply about noting “history” or continuing some “tradition,” but rather about declaring Christian ownership of government.
Silent, personal prayer in places of government and by officials of the government has always been allowed, has never even been a matter of question. What has been a matter of question is the use of so-called “prayer” as a outspoken tool of power to define a community of insiders who belong and outsiders who do not belong. When included as government ceremony, the purpose of prayer is to communicate expectations to others in the room. When they speak “on behalf of all God-fearing people,” to quote one government prayer of Greece, and when they falsely generalize to claim that the townspeople of Greece are “a Christian people,” to quote another Grecian government prayer, these religious ceremonies do not intimidate and exclude others as a coincidence. It is their primary purpose.