By editorial board • 

County plan upheld when court allowed public prayer

Meetings of the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners will now begin with a prayer, board chair Allen Springer announced last week. And if that makes you uncomfortable, kindly put your headphones on or exit the room, said a 5-4 May ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This practice will draw fire from those considering it a state establishment of religion. Commissioners should take care to ensure that opening prayers represent whatever diversity of religions exists in the county and be cautious about allowing the beliefs of one religious faith to drive government policies.

The Supreme Court’s split vote sparked a new round of discourse about a topic of great interest to many Americans: the inclusion of religion in the government sphere. The right to open government meetings with prayer has been defended several times in the court system. The recent ruling has a twist, however, allowing opening prayers to be almost entirely Christian if that is the near-exclusive religion of the community. It does not matter, the court said, if that makes a meeting attendee uncomfortable. 

In the case in Greece, N.Y., a Jewish woman and an atheist woman argued the nearly all-Christian invocations of a local council violated their rights. Prayers should only be for a “generic God,” they said.  Not so, the court ruled.

Yamhill County invocations will be mostly Christian, because that faith has a sound majority in our communities. It takes only a glance at the News-Register’s weekly church listings to see that.

But Springer said the board will be open to prayers from members of other faiths.

For citizens, testifying in front of a governing board can be nerve-racking. If someone of Jewish or Muslim faith enters Room 32 of the courthouse and feels he or she will be judged solely by Christian-based tenets, it could affect their view of the proceedings. Having such people share a moment of their faith at said meetings should remain a possibility. 

Of course, always, lines will have to be drawn. Yes, we might snicker if a worshiper of Satan demands to give a pre-meeting invocation, a current situation in Florida. 

There’s no denying that religion plays a role in politics, where many speeches end with “May God bless the United States of America.” But religion should not reach beyond those symbolic gestures to advance narrow political agendas.



Unfortunately, Commissioner Springer decided that a religious invocation should now be a part of Yamhill County politics. He chose a time when he was sure it would go through with only two sitting commissioners and no public input.

The question that needs to be asked is "why". Is everyone in Yamhill County a Christian? No. Is everyone in the county a religious person? Again, the answer is no. So, why choose to initiate such an unnecessary & divisive policy? Because he could. It's that simple.

Commissioner Springer has a well deserved reputation in local government of being argumentative & divisive to fellow elected officials and constituents alike. His position has often been "my way, or the highway", with little concern for opposing ideas or positions. Given that track record, it becomes obvious that he took advantage of this time to instill both his own conservative religious views and, at the same time, pander to the conservative religious right in the county.

I hope that others will speak up about this issue. A religious invocation should not be a part of Yamhill County meetings. Yamhill County has always been inclusive - this new policy will only be divisive.


I wonder if Springer would maintain his opinion about this if a lawsuit were brought against the county. Would he be willing to waste tens of thousands of the counties dollars defending a policy that serves no purpose beyond maintaining his undeserved ego? There are plenty of groups that specialize in fighting this type of encroachment by people who think religion needs to be inserted into places where it absolutely doesn't belong. Or, would he be willing to abandon it, and save the county the embarrassment and legal costs associated with adopting an inappropriate and divisive policy like this?


A lawsuit against the county would be a waste time and money - the Supreme Court has already decided that Commissioner Springer is within his rights to do this. As has been discussed in another thread, the question isn't "can he" (because he can), but rather, "should he". This is a local issue between the people of Yamhill County, and Commissioner Springer.


He is instigating the process with his actions, and any steps taken to fight back are completely justified. Any money wasted would be his fault if he doesn't change his mind, since there would be nothing to sue over if he never decided to act this way. I know all about the Supreme Court ruling, but just because a partisan and corrupt court rules a certain way does not mean the fight is over, and people are fighting this all over the country every day. If you don't want to see any wasted resources from the county, tell him to stop. It's as simple as that, because someday there will be enough of a push to force a trial if he doesn't.


Regardless of how passionately you personally feel about this, the legal question has been settled, until you can elect a president who can appoint a Supreme Court that is not "partisan and corrupt". I'll be holding my breath for that. Best of luck with your lawsuit.


The legal question is not settled, there are court cases still pending in other parts of the country that address similar issues. Personally, I don't want to waste any resources over something that could be resolved instantly by a single person discontinuing an action, and I don't even think I'd be the right person to sue. Honestly though, I'm very surprised people aren't more upset by this. The most recent study I could find of religious adherents for Yamhill County from 2000 only shows 26.38% as active members in any congregation, and 10% of that are listed as other than the various types of Christian. At best he is abusing his position of power to impose his personal beliefs on the public that mostly does not share his faith. He would be a far better servant to the community if he would instead practice his faith in private and leave his time spent as an administrator to official duties.


I guess I don't understand what there is to be "more upset" about. You, and many others, may take umbrage at the practice (and, for that reason alone, I think it would be adviseable to back off of doing it, out of common courtesy), but I don't see the reason to sue over it.


It still feels like self-serving grandstanding. Consider all the TV ministers who fell spectacularly from grace and all their weeping and lamenting. Why does it seem like the overly pious have so much farther to fall?
As I said before, pray when nobody can see you.

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