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Thread: Invocations at public meetings: appropriate to stay seated?

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Invocations at public meetings: appropriate to stay seated?

    Where I work, a local minister always recites an invocation before every City Council meeting. The Mayor requests that everybody stand for the invocation. At the meetings I've attended, the invocations aren't short prayers; they approach the 90 second to two minute mark. The prayers also aren't generic, appealing to God or "a higher power" in general; they're specifically very Christian, mentioning Jesus.

    If City Council wants to pray, it's fine by me, even though some consider it questionable. However, being Jewish, I'm not exactly comfortable with standing up and praying to Jesus. Jesus was a great guy and all, and I appreciate that people want to give props to a fellow Member of the Tribe, but still ... you know. Anyhow, being a new employee, I don't want to make waves, or be seen as one of "those Jews" who's trying to spoil everyone else's fun.

    Do you think it would be appropriate to stay seated during the invocation, and then rise for the Pledge of Allegiance afterward? I'd be the only one that would be seated. I think I'm the only Jewish city employee, and the city is quite far from the center of the region's Jewish community; I'd say the population of religious adherents that are not Christian there is close to zero. I'd prefer not to strategically show up late, or wait outside the chambers and time my entrance just before the pledge.

    FWIW, I've never been preached or proselytized to, not experienced any other problems because of my faith. Some of you know the name of the city where I work; please don't post it in this thread. Thanks.




    * Yeah, I know I'm posting this on Shabbat. I'm really not that religious.
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  2. #2
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Same situation here. I don't think that standing during the invocation necessarily equates to praying. I'm always in the front row, I stand, head facing forward, hands in front of me, eyes wide open. This posture conceals the fact that I'm not praying. I view it as a moment of silence, during which, I go over in my head what I'm going to say when it comes to my public hearing items.
    RJ is the KING of . The One

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I'm not sure how I feel on this issue. I'm not very religious, but I tend to follow the crowd on public invocations. I think you have to follow your heart on this one, even if it means being :"that Jew".

    I don't know the players here, but if you are comfortable with the officials, I might suggest pulling them aside for a short discussion about why you prefer to remain seated. Reasonable people will understand your beliefs and respect you for it.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    It has always bothered me. I often have to bite my tongue to stop from laughing at some of the silliness. But I go with the flow to not "stand" out. In one city we were fortunate to have a commissioner in a wheelchair...all remained seated.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    It has always bothered me. I often have to bite my tongue to stop from laughing at some of the silliness. But I go with the flow to not "stand" out. In one city we were fortunate to have a commissioner in a wheelchair...all remained seated.
    Laughing during a prayer. Gosh thats worse than laughing during sex.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    ^^NTTAWWT Chet, you are not having enough fun.

    Dan, I'd stand and use it as a moment of silence per RJ.

    (free thinkin' agnostic)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I'd stand, and silently say my own devotion. I'm making more compromises than I normally would these days for the sake of job security.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    If you stay seated during the invocation, it will be noticed by the City Council if you are the only one. If you don't want to create waves, I would just go with it. My bf is jewish and he complains about insensitivity to his beliefs in areas that have a higher Christian population. Maybe you could talk to this minister that gives the invocation and let him know you appreciate his words, but being Jewish you wish he would make it more generic so you felt more comfortable, clergy tend to be pretty tolerant of other religions in my experience.

    In my fair town we do the invocation before public meetings, but we stay seated. Staff has to sit in the front row, so I fold my hands and lower my eyes just in case they peek.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  9. #9
    The reporter that used to cover my beat was Jewish and he sat during the Council's recitation of the Lord's Prayer. Several local bloggers have posted about their atheism/agnosticism and they remain seated as well. Nobody has commented about anyone remaining seated.

    I try to hang out in the hallway until the Council starts the Pledge and then I slip in surreptitiously.
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    It is difficult to be the only one not participating. I tend to remain quiet and listen respectfully, but not consider my actions an act of prayer. I also get uncomfortable with the pledge of allegience. These kinds of pledges are something that many of this country's founders found very objectionable. Now we have adopted one. Even worse, some of its language is particularly offensive. Still you may hear me saying "one nation... indivisible..."
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    You seem to have 2 choices- stand and fit in (but feel that you are being discriminated against) or sit and stand out (possibly resulting in being ostracized or much worse.) Only you can decide which to do. To a large extent it depends on how badly you need the job and how offensive you find it. If you to sit and get fired you probably have a good discrimination suit, but you probably won't get fired, just treated poorly. That's harder to prove.

    Personally, I think I might have a hard time standing but I also have never been in any sort of situation where my core beliefs have been challenged like that. The government world here in godless Massachusetts is very, well, godless. If anything there is more leeway given to Jews, Muslims, etc., than Christians because of the high level of sensitivity about these issues.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Not sure why I can't edit my last post, but I did want to add that, upon further reflection, I would most likely stand and just keep my mouth shut. So much for idealism...

  13. #13
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    I understand how you feel. The community I work for has an invocation at the beginning of each Town Council meeting. I just use the opportunity to gather my thoughts on whatever I am presenting to the Council. This is also a community where on our website most of the employees bios have where everyone goes to church. My bio just talks about where I went to school, haha.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Still you may hear me saying "one nation... indivisible..."
    Funny. I do the same thing.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    Funny. I do the same thing.
    Me too. When I first started working for my city various clergy were invited to give the invocation. Some went heavier on Jesus than others, and still others were sensitive to the variety of beliefs out there and gave more generic invocations. Somebody complained and now we don't do invocations at all, which is the best thing in my opinion. Church and state and all that.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    Funny. I do the same thing.
    So do I. I have gotten looks from those around me on this, but I do not care. I cannot do anything about the innvocation (especially since the ACLU has sued and lost). Luckily they vary the people doing the invocation. We often have different Christian sect preists, immans, buddhist monks, and multiple rabbis attend and conduct the innvocation, which makes it a little less pffensive IMHO.
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  17. #17
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    We do not do innovations in my town. The town attorney informed our council that if we open up our council meeting to one church then all are free to offer a similar prayer at future meeting...some members of the previous council were uncomfortable with the idea of prayers being offered to multiple gods, the Goddess Earth or Satan.

    I am not religious and when I say the pledge of allegiance I use the pre 1954 version...but I do stand out of respect for the person giving the innovation and as a sign that I respect their beliefs.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  18. #18
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    My two cents: I run into this issue at my local Toastmasters meeting, which begins with the pledge of allegiance and an invocation. I do not do the invocation. Someone does it for me when it is my turn. I do stand and assume a neutral stance and facial expression.

    At one of our governing body public meetings, which begins with the pledge, one of our planners did not place her hand over her heart or recite the Pledge. The person standing next to her was vocal about her refusal to participate. The planner was a Canadian with a green card, so she really could not pledge allegiance to the flag. The Pledge is a different situation than the invocation because you have to either participate or not. With an invocation, you can participate, assume a neutral presence or actively not participate (in this case, not stand).

    Were it me at the public meeting, I would stand and be neutral. Respectful of those who want to particpate, but not participating myself as a personal choice. It would not be a big enough issue to me to chose not to stand. Which would just call attention to myself and might require at some point I explain why I did not stand.
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  19. #19
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    I also get uncomfortable with the pledge of allegience. These kinds of pledges are something that many of this country's founders found very objectionable. Now we have adopted one.
    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    The Pledge is a different situation than the invocation because you have to either participate or not.
    While I acknowledge the accuracy of your point, Cardinal, it is otterpop's point that I worry about. Having an adopted pledge of allegiance isn't really that big an issue. You can either say it or not. I personally pledge allegiance by choice, even in it's current wording, and would do so even if it were not required of me (though I would rather the "the flag of" was taken out of the first line, though. I pledge my allegiance to the nation, not a symbol of it) .It's having to participate that is an issue.

    Dan, I may be wrong, but I think the city secretary just has a list of local religious leaders who they schedule on a rotating basis for invocations, and there are not currently any religious organizations in town besides Christian churches or parishes. I can imagine that should any non-Christian synagogue, temple, religious center or mosque open in town, they'd be added to the schedule just like anyone else. When that day comes and they aren't, then there might be some grounds for discrimination or something. Until then, I'm sorry you are uncomfortable.
    Last edited by TexanOkie; 23 Feb 2009 at 12:20 PM.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Ugh..that would really stick in my crawl, Dan. I can undersatnd how uncomfortable you would be. I can't undersatnd why pastors don't understand the concept of praying to "God" and letting everyone else determine what/how/who that God would be. Forget the whole Jesus thing and think about people who might be Islamic, Jewish, or Buddhist.

    I was in a Rotary club a few years ago that had a Baptist Minister that always did the prayers and there was always a heavy emphasis on Jesus and new testiment scripture (the end is near!) that even bugged me, the Catholic. We had a few Jewish members join and the board asked Rev. Baptist to please stop being Jesus-specific and when he wouldn't, we took prayer out of the meetings altogether. There was even some horribly inappropriate Jewish jokes told during meetings that caused a few of us to walk out to make our point that this kind of stuff wasn't going to fly anymore. As you might imagine, this Rotary club was still smarting from letting women join back in the 1990's.

    But you are working in the Bible belt (I moved away years ago and am generally shocked at the "jesusity"when I go back), so you might just want to stand and not join the prayer. It doesn't do your career any good to be bold about not participating. In the meantime, I would definitely say something to your boss and HR about the non-diverse prayers and see where it goes. I'm sure you have more supporters on your side that you know.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian ecofem's avatar
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    I use the prayer as a time to "go to the happy place" in my mind.... it is right before the "citizens to be heard" part of the Agenda comes up.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    As a church going prodestant, I don't really think a prayer at the start of a commissioners meeting is appropriate. It's that separation of church and state thingy. In this present gig, the commissioners pray before the meeting and generally various religions come in to do the prayer or a commissioner will offer the prayer. It's interesting sometimes to hear the different emphasis one will put in over another - some are very heavy Jesus and some are not. For one particualr religion beginning with a B, I count how many times they use a particular reference. Other times I say my own little prayer about keeping family safe or let my mind wander.

    I stand because its respectful (much like standing for another countries national anthem). If I were you Dan, I'd stand and say a little prayer in hebrew to yourself. I'd also see if there is a rabbi that would be put on the list to pray for the city.
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  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    I was reflecting on the pledge just this week at a neighborhood meeting with a group I hadn't previously attended. I put my hand on my heart, and participated, all the while feeling kind of like a fraud. When I was a teenager, I sat during the pledge, and I've rarely been in situations involving a pledge or public prayer.

    Why did I participate? Because I didn't want to antagonize the group. I was at their meeting, and I figured they might be offended or distrustful if I didn't say the pledge.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    I'd just stand respectfully. It's really no different than standing for the Canadian national anthem when you're an American. Showing respect doesn't mean that you have to salute the flag too. As an aside, since you're new to life in the Lone Star State, a LOT of Christianity displayed in the South is more cultural norm than actual practice. Don't expect that the guy who puts the cross or fish symbol on his business is going treat you better than the guy who doesn't. As they commonly say, if you're going fishing with a Baptist, take two. That way they can each watch each other to make sure that the other one doesn't drink your beer.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Jakers's avatar
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    I bet if you sat down others would too. I would venture to guess that there are others there in a similar boat as you. But for the sake of conformity and potential job efficacy I would just go thru the motions and have a moment of silence or go over what I needed to say. Nobody can make you pray.
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