Doug Napier

In 2010, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State pressured the Bulverde, Texas City Council to change their policies regarding prayers to open public meetings. Subsequently, the city council changed its policies to more clearly welcome invocations from all faiths.

In the three years since, only Christians have taken up the offer to pray, so AU is pressuring Bulverde again by alleging “the heavy reliance on a prayer tied to one religion [makes the City Council] vulnerable from a constitutional standpoint.”

According to AU senior policy analyst Rob Boston,

"We…believe that the country is becoming more diverse religiously, and that, in light of this, communities should drop official prayers before their meetings. Individuals could still pray privately, of course, or the communities could move to moments of silence. Such moments allow each person to pray or not as guided by conscience."

The answer to diversity is uniformity? Instead of embracing the differences and inviting people to pray in their own faith tradition, AU would have everyone do the same nondescript and meaningless thing: “moments of silence.” By having everyone express themselves—or not—in a homogeneous vacuum of silence, each person can be unique just like everyone else.

Of course, Boston is fine with people who want to pray in secret. Just don’t do it in public. Certainly, don’t pray out loud. If you do pray, make it look like you are just being silent and not expressing any thoughts or ideas or talking to anyone, let alone God.

Note Boston’s emphasis on how people should be allowed “to pray or not as guided by conscience.”

Is this not the very position adopted by the Bulverde City Council when they changed their invocation policy? They very carefully crafted a policy that invited all (translated: diverse) people to pray or not pray at the start of meetings. It’s not the City’s fault that none but Christians have been “guided by conscience” to pray to this point.

Do we really think it’s fairness that Boston or AU as a whole want to accomplish?

They’d rather use diversity to push uniformity—a uniformity best modeled by a hollow moment of silence rather than hallowed prayer…or a handshake and a cup of coffee rather than even a moment of silence.

And as AU rattles its saber about filing suit, Boston is out in front trying to intimidate Bulverde officials into retreat by reminding them of instances when AU successfully bullied other local governments into compliance.

But so far, Bulverde Mayor Bill Krawietz isn’t impressed with Boston’s arguments. And he is making it clear that the city council did all it plans to do when it changed its policy in 2010:

"We passed a resolution then, and we are well within our legal rights. We adopted a policy that does not show any favoritism to any religion in the Bulverde area. For those who wish to offer a prayer, we ask not to promote their church. But I go out of my way to include those who don’t wish to pray."

What AU wants isn’t really diversity, but conformity (which is really nothing less than censorship). And that consists of forcing every city council across the country to conform to the anti-religious outlook and practice of AU.


Doug Napier

Douglas Napier is senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom.