The Aug. 21 story, "Pastors to Galloway: Muscle up," describes the efforts of several local ministers to override the Galloway Township Council resolution to have council members deliver a nondenominational prayer at the beginning of meetings rather than have the pastors do it.

This approach is too tame for the pastors, who say this is a generic stance on the idea of a prayer designed to keep everyone happy and avoid litigation.

What a shame that would be - when they could offend a good percentage of the attendees and provoke a lawsuit.

This is a fine example why mixing government and religion is always a bad idea. Some clergy are not content to lead their own congregations and have an overwhelming need to show their stuff to an outside audience, whether it's at a government meeting, a football game or a public school graduation.

It would be one thing if their prayers had some positive effect. But I defy anyone to provide a shred of evidence that the public piety they propose has ever had the slightest effect other than to divide groups that aren't completely homogenous or help politicians appear more virtuous.

No one has ever suggested that any public official can't pray any time he or she likes, for whatever reason. If they feel they need a little guidance from above before some vote, they are free to ask for it.

But the Pew Research Center tells us that 20 percent of Americans are either atheist, agnostic or have no affiliation with any religion. More surprising, this figure has risen 5 percent in the last five years. One third of adults under 30 are unaffiliated.

If the nonreligious were classified as a sect, they would be the largest denomination in the country.

The ministers pushing for their return to council chambers admit that the only faith group that participated in the past was Christian. But that doesn't necessarily prove they are a strong majority. And even if they are, a true democracy doesn't just focus on the majority. It respects the rights of minorities, too.

The wall between church and state is continually breached from both sides. Hypocritical politicians love to get in front of a camera and tell us how their faith guides their government service. And many, but not all, church figures struggle to insinuate themselves into the government process to soak up the money and influence that politics provides.

Certainly, the worst New Jersey example of church/

state corruption this year is Gov. Chris Christie's attempt to give over $10 million to an ultra-orthodox yeshiva in Lakewood for a new library and academic space. This is a flagrant violation of the U.S. and N.J. constitutions. It would give the yeshiva a new building and give Christie votes and campaign contributions. Taxpayers would get the the shaft. My hope is that our courts will stop it.


Ocean City