From classrooms and the sets of TV talk shows to street corners, office break rooms, radio shows and now Facebook, debate has raged for the past 30 years about what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution means in regard to the phrase, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”
What it doesn’t mean, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last week appeared to affirm a 1983 ruling, is that town councils and the like are prohibited from opening public meetings with a prayer. This puts to rest any questions about the constitutionality of such practices by local elected bodies, including the Fort Mill Town Council, which rotates an opening prayer among its members.
The 5-4 decision handed down May 5 was like many other landmark rulings in the past couple of decades in that the High Court’s liberals and conservatives were camped on opposite ends of the issue. Not unlike the 1983 7-3 decision in Marsh v. Chambers that reversed a lower court ruling against the Nebraska Legislature’s practice of paying a Presbyterian minister to deliver an invocation to open its sessions, a conservative majority came down squarely on the side of public prayer. Both courts made references to the country’s “history” and “tradition” in regard to faith in explaining the majority decision.
Now that it’s decided that town councils have the right to pray, the question remains about whether or not they should. We think so.
It’s clear the intent of the Fort Mill Town Council when its members lead an opening prayer is not to proselytize, but to acknowledge a creator and seek wisdom and guidance. There’s nothing wrong with that.
No one is forced to pray. Anyone uncomfortable with an opening prayer is free to leave the meeting room and come back in when it’s over, or to wait at the door and enter when the prayer ends.
That’s not to say we wouldn’t prefer that the town council – or any elected body – adopt a policy of non-sectarian prayer even though last week’s ruling did not stipulate it. Better yet, we like the Tega Cay City Council’s approach of opening meetings with a moment of silence. That allows everyone in attendance to pray and reflect in their own way – or not at all.
Life is about choices and, excluding minors, that includes where you decide to call home. Fort Mill Township, even as it continues to grow, is a reflection of its region and here, there’s at least one church in every neighborhood. It’s been that way since there’s been a “Fort Mill,” an “Indian Land” and “Van Wyck” and, much later, a “Tega Cay” on the map. Since then, several denominations of Christianity and now even other faiths – there are two Jewish congregations here now, for example – have a presence and all are accepted.
Religion is part of the fabric of life here. If most people opposed opening meetings with a prayer, they are free to tell the council how they feel at meetings – and at the ballot box.
No one is forced to participate in it, nor ostracized if they don’t, but if religion is something that makes you uncomfortable, you probably picked the wrong town.
Congratulations, Yellow Jackets lacrosse team
The Fort Mill Yellow Jackets boys’ lacrosse team sure lived up to its No. 1 ranking.
Recently, Fort Mill avenged last year’s loss to Wando in the state title game by by controlling the opening and closing quarters on the way to a 15-13 win that made the Jackets S.C. champions. This time, it was Wando’s turn to go home with the bitter taste of defeat in their mouths.
For Fort Mill, the championship was a fitting end for senior leaders Mitch Russell and Ethan Gray. They helped lead Fort Mill to three state title games in four years and their second S.C. title. Not bad for a school that didn’t even a varsity team just a few years ago.
As the score would indicate, it wasn’t an easy victory. Russell opened the fourth quarter scoring his sixth goal of the game and gave the Jackets a four point lead with about 9:30 left in the game. From there, the Jackets were able to gut it out and run the clock.
The team may have stars like Russell and Gray, among others, but they are a sum of their parts. Like had coach Steve Nadolski put it, “The kids really wanted it.”
Congratulations to Nadolski and and his team and the entire Fort Mill High School community for getting another trophy to add to the case.