And the atheists?

Who represents them on Galloway Township Council?

Or are atheists some type of lesser township residents not entitled to the same representation as residents who believe in a god?

Don't like these questions? Neither do we. But we didn't raise the issue - Township Council did. And for the life of us, we can't understand why governmental bodies wade into this morass.

Galloway has struggled with the issue of opening Township Council meetings with a prayer for several years now. First, council invited pastors from a variety of denominations to offer a pre-meeting prayer. Then council tried the moment-of-silence route. Now, council is prepared to approve a plan that will have different members of council open meetings by reading one of 35 nondenominational prayers from a list the township has put together. (Someone sure spent a lot of the taxpayers' time compiling that list.)

Yes, we know. Congress, the state Legislature, counties and a number of towns open meetings with a prayer.

But we don't understand that either. Government and religion do not mix. Period. Is there a better, more current, more frightening example of mixing government and religion than the Taliban in Afghanistan?

And no, that's not an unfair example. It's an extreme, but common example. Unfortunately, the world is full of examples of sectarian strife of one degree or another.

Why go anywhere near there?

Galloway's plan is already creating rancor. At least one evangelical pastor is irked that none of the 35 approved prayers mention Jesus Christ.

This is just such an unnecessary issue. No one in America is forbidden from praying. You can pray at home. You can pray in your house of worship. You can pray while walking down the street. Your children can pray while sitting at their desks in school, if they want. Galloway Township Council members can pray while sitting on the dais. Township residents can - and probably should - pray while sitting in the audience.

But government meetings are not the place for an official prayer.

The underlying principle of our nation and our Constitution is that government exists to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. If you ask us, that means governmental bodies and religion don't mix.

And any claim that Galloway's plan is all about being inclusive and welcoming to all was undermined in 2006 (yes, Galloway was wasting time on this issue seven years ago, too), when current Councilman Thomas Bassford, then the mayor, said: "We're a Christian society. And I think it's a good way to start off a meeting - with a prayer."

Really? Bassford later apologized to the township's non-Christians - but not to the township's atheists.

We would like to think we are a society where members of all religions and members of no religion are entitled to live their lives as they please - and where their government represents them all equally without regard to their faith or lack of faith.

Which means no governmental body should start a public meeting with an official prayer of any kind.


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