By Don Iler • News Editor • 

Springer introduces optional invocation

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Praise God for Allen Springer who has the courage to point out the value of prayer in govermental decisions.

David Bates

The job of elected commissioners, as I understand it, is to craft policy and run the operations of Yamhill County government, not to sponsor feel-good exercises that "acknowledge" the Christian beliefs of some constituents. The U.S. Constitution was deliberately crafted as a secular document; it does not appeal to God, Christianity, Jesus, or any other entity or supreme being. It is unfortunate and disturbing that some of Yamhill County's highest office-holders either do not understand or agree with that.


Commissioner Springer seems to think that the bible & prayer are what will give the residents of Yamhill County good governance. He needs to keep in mind that we live in a Democracy, not a Theocracy. He wasn't elected to lead us like Moses, just be a good commissioner. Give up the prayer & govern, without pandering to the religious right.


Well said, David. However, I don't see the harm in an opening invocation at formal meetings, other than the offense it causes in some observers. I don't see it as any more of a "feel-good exercise" than the routine recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at the meetings, which feels more coercive, to me, than having to endure a brief prayer. Some people find it meaningful, while others see it as an empty ritualistic gesture. I say, let the chairman run the meeting any way he wants to, until the line is crossed that clearly does violate constitution. And where that line is, exactly, will continue to be tested in the courts.


But, photoguy, pandering is what politicians do. Maybe it's possible to be a good commissioner without giving up the prayer.

David Bates

Since people aren't required to participate in either, why does the Pledge of Allegiance feel any more coercive than an optional prayer session? It seems to me that regardless of intent, the point when the chairman calls for the Pledge (or a prayer), the unspoken expectation is: "Okay, everyone fall into line and at least make a show of it."


The use of the word "coercive" may have been too strong, David. When the Pledge is recited, there is an expectation that everybody participate in the exercise, but non-compliance invites judgement of one's patriotism. When a prayer is offered, everyone is expected to remain silent, regardless of their position on it. It feels more "coercive" when active participation is expected.


I would have to agree that politician & pandering are both "P" words - & unfortunately too often linked. My point was that having an opening prayer is pointless (I think I'm becoming redundant here). It's a democratically elected body, doing the county business. Nowhere will you find god mentioned in the county charter. I'd also agree with David that the Pledge is also, in its own way, coercive. Here, though, the idea of everybody "falling in to line & making a good show of it" wastes everybody's time.

To make this more even-handed, Commissioner Springer & all the commissioners should agree that any philosophical (non-religious) opening comments should be equally sought & used

David Bates

Well, if Commissioner Springer is asking those in attendance who wish to join him in prayer to stand, then there is a subtle coercion at work. I agree with you that "non-compliance" with the Pledge does invite judgement of one's patriotism, particularly in the current political climate. Similarly, for an elected official to set aside time for prayer (not to mention asking participants to stand!) during (or right before, or whatever) a public meeting of a government body has the effect of creating a space where everyone's "allegiance," or absence thereof, to a God is put on public display. That is not only highly inappropriate, it does create a kind of harm: It puts the board in the ridiculous position of basically saying, "Everyone is welcome to come to our meetings, but be prepared to let everyone in the room know whether you're a Christian or otherwise." He might as well conduct a poll! I personally wouldn't have any problem sitting on my hands during a public prayer or the pledge, but there ARE constituents for whom that prospect is genuinely unsettling.


Good point, David. The idea of expecting people to stand invites the same kind of judgement, if one chooses not to do it. I see it more as an obsequious nod to custom, than any kind of affront to my religious liberty.

However, in a secular pluralistic society, such as ours, it seems almost "un-christian" to impose such an expectation on those attending a public meeting. In fact, the Bible instructs believers to live their lives in a manner that gives no offense to unbelievers, in terms of their daily conduct. Expecting people at a public meeting to stand for an invocation has the whiff of violating this directive. If the commissioners want to invoke God's blessing on their procedings before they meet publicly, let them do that. But, don't make a public show that they KNOW will offend people.

David Bates

My sentiments exactly. Politicians are always talking about "bringing people together," and yet if there were a list of unimportant and/or non-essential issues that are virtually guaranteed to split people apart, Prayer in [Public Institution] would probably rank No. 1. The existence of this discussion thread (and apparently there's another one around here somewhere) is only the most tangible evidence of that. Commissioner Springer's decision to insert this issue into Yamhill County's public business is an unnecessary and divisive provocation. I hope he gives this more thought. He can even pray about it if he wants to. Alone. On his time.


David & "Sponge" (sorry for the familiarity) - both of you articulate a well reasoned response to this divisive & unnecessary situation. Unfortunately, Commissioner Springer has a well earned reputation in local government of being strong willed, divisive & inflammatory in his dealings with fellow elected officials and constituents. My guess is he will take umbrage to anyone in disagreement to this decision. Good luck, if you think he will give a reasoned, reasonable response to what has been discussed here.


Never mind what I think of this pompous, self-serving idiot. Let's read what Jesus had to say in the bible, Matthew chapter six:

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.


United States Supreme Court
The opening of sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country. From colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom… In light of the unambiguous and unbroken history of more than 200 years, there can be no doubt that the practice of opening legislative sessions with prayer has become part of the fabric of our society.

Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, 787, 792 (1983).


Perhaps some of you with differing opinions should run for County Commissioner with the platform of "No prayers in public places". You might get some votes.

I do agree that no one should be asked to stand for the prayer. There are many who don't believe that religion has any place in our public society. Do they still have prayers in Congress?

David Bates

Notwithstanding my views on the Supreme Court's opinion on this, the relevant question here is not whether Commissioner Springer can provide a opportunity for public prayer at a government meeting, but whether he should. It is already difficult enough for many people to attend a public meeting, much less speak at one if some circumstances beyond their control require them to. By conducting a religious ritual prior to the meeting that "outs" atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, etc. -- in other words, by creating a situation where the absence of "speech" (standing, closing one's eyes, bowing the head) calls public attention to one's personal religious or spiritual views -- Commissioner Springer is effectively disenfranchising and marginalizing thousands of Yamhill County's citizens.


"in other words, by creating a situation where the absence of "speech" (standing, closing one's eyes, bowing the head) calls public attention to one's personal religious or spiritual views -- Commissioner Springer is effectively disenfranchising and marginalizing thousands of Yamhill County's citizens."

I seriously doubt it..........What seems to dictate a "packed house" at commission meetings (number of people in attendance) are the subjects being covered at that particular commission meeting.

David Bates

So? What does it matter if there's one or a thousand? Why should a single person who attends an official government meeting be obliged to offer so much as a hint of their personal views about religion or even the issue of public prayer, for that matter? What purpose does this serve? It serves absolutely no public purpose whatsoever.


David, obviously your opinion differs from others. It is just your opinion and it isn't backed up by the law or many (perhaps most) other people. Are you right? It certainly depends on your perspective. For many people it could serve a purpose and that might be a "public purpose" whether, or not, you believe there is spiritual force that might be a source of wisdom.

Having said that, I agree with many of your comments. I don't think that prayers should be offered at these meetings.


"So? What does it matter if there's one or a thousand?"

I guess it matters because not everyone can have their way and in a country of diverse views and opinions there has to be a way to resolve conflict of opinion or law.

The law, supported by the Supreme Court, says the invocations can take place. We don't have to like it, but there it is!

Springer, Kotek, Courtney, Boehner and Reid are fully within their rights and the rights of the majority of the people to call for an invocation should they so desire.



What is (should be) the primary purpose of the prayers?


I suspect to different people it has different purposes. A commonly heard reason is guidance.

Perhaps Justice Anthony Kennedy said it pretty well in a majority opinion;
“It is presumed that the reasonable observer is acquainted with this tradition and understands that its purposes are to lend gravity to public proceedings and to acknowledge the place religion holds in the lives of many private citizens, not to afford government an opportunity to proselytize or force truant constituents into the pews,”

It is something that has been going on at public meetings since before the US was the US. As long as Springer doesn't declare that all other religions are outlawed and that all citizens of Yamhill County must partake of the Church of England, I guess I really don't have a problem with it.


Maybe we could combine the sentiments of both Springer and Boehner and pray while we're sobbing. Maybe we could sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Maybe we should all march in lock-step and beg the creator for a more conservative and Biblical Yamhill County, in accordance with Springer's ultimate aim.
Enough already.
How about if we stop being silly and disingenuous and simply conduct the meeting like adults? This isn't Sunday school.

Jeb Bladine

The Supreme Court has said that opening prayers are legal, within guidelines found in the opinion.
Many Yamhill County Commission meetings are small, enclosed gatherings in the White House; others are small crowd gatherings in the Courthouse. Either way, particularly in the White House, attendees should not be asked to stand or, for that matter, make any display requiring them to reveal belief or non-belief. Those who deliver pre-meeting invocations should be asked to deliver their brief comment without instructions, with attendees free to sit quietly or bow in reverence.
Photoguy suggests the possibility of non-religious comments. In fact, governmental bodies in similar circumstances have invited secular invocations that represent equally high-minded sentiment of relevance to democratic governance. Here's a portion of one delivered this year at a city council meeting in Washington:
"I am going to ask that you raise your eyes and think about a few things today. When this body comes together to govern, they do so with the consent of the citizens of Oak Harbor … a very diverse community with many different views and opinions … It is incumbent upon this council to make the best decisions for the community. In this regard, I ask that you use reason, wisdom and empathy in your deliberations today. To take into account the implications your decisions will have now and in the future. We should all plant an acorn, even though we may not live to hear the wind rush through its leaves or the joyous laughter of children playing in the comfort of its shade.”
We have long-standing local traditions of opening various public gatherings with invocations – the DSA Banquet comes to mind, with decades of Christian invocations by Ezra Koch. However, with no local tradition of opening government meetings with prayer, it’s all the more important for Yamhill County commissioners to enact their decision in ways that are inclusive, not divisive.




I want to say that I am very honored to live in a community with such diverse thought. I also want to commend everyone who commented here. Usually these arenas are in fact more divisive then welcoming of open discussion.

So a big thank you to those who joined in and have a wonderful day.

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