My Turn: Real issue isn't prayer but freedom

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

By Rev. Jim Harris
The issue of praying “in Jesus’ name” is concentrating on the wrong issue. The issue is not in whose name you pray, but does anyone have the right in our country to prevent anyone from praying at a commission meeting or a football game or on a street corner, or anywhere else that they have been asked to pray by those in charge? The First Amendment that gives this newspaper the right to print what it sees fit to print also gives me the right to free speech and to exercise my freedom of religion.
Everyone should know by now that the “separation of church and state” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. It is a misinterpretation of a Thomas Jefferson letter. The founding fathers did say “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This was because some of the early settlers of America brought their “established” church with them, and in that colony, that was the only church allowed. In that colony you had to attend that church and pay taxes to support that church.
We should give thanks for the freedom we have to worship or not worship as we please in America. I don’t want to make the ACLU or others pray with me, but I sure don’t want them or anyone else to deny me the freedom to pray or worship as I please.
At age 18, I went into the USAF and took an oath to defend my country against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. We have both kinds. I fought in the Korean War. I fought for the freedom of the Muslim, the Jew, the Buddhist or any other religion, or no religion. I fought for the freedom of my country, and I don’t want anyone to try to take it away from me or anyone else in this country. Some people don’t want to spend tax money to fight the ACLU. I would rather pay taxes to defend the freedom of my countrymen than to spend them on some other things we have paid for.
If I was a commissioner or a member of a civic club or part of any other group and we asked a Jew or a Muslim to pray and he prayed, that would not bother me. I’m a Christian, and when I pray, I pray a Christian prayer because that is what I am. I don’t know how to pray a generic prayer, and I don’t expect any other religion to pray a generic prayer. A generic prayer is no prayer at all.
Now, concerning the freedom to use the name “Jesus.” The devil is against it, and will try to stamp it out. He will try to make America like some other countries where you cannot mention the name of Jesus outside of your church building, and of course when that is the situation, there are few or no church buildings left. Is that what you want in America? There are preachers and other religious leaders of today that agree with the devil’s view. They want to please and appease everybody. I want to please God, regardless of whether man is pleased or not. Jesus put it this way when He spoke of persecution to come to his disciples, in Matthew 10:28, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
How much freedom will we lose in this country before we take a stand? I’m 80 years old, and I was born in a time when we loved our country and were proud of it. It was a time of individualism, but we were individuals who respected and cared for our neighbors. The government stayed off our backs, and we cared for ourselves and each other. We have lost that spirit. We have all but lost that country. It’s time for backbone and jail if need be. You think “not America,” but we can come to that.
Like others, we can come to the time that it is said, “Our fellow citizens are in jail.” Their crime? They stood for Jesus in public. Will you put up with that? I remember two countries like that — Nazi Germany and communist Russia.
It may take your blood to win freedom, but it takes backbone to keep it.
The Rev. Jim Harris is interim pastor of Milford Hills Baptist Church.