Prayer not an excuse to close doors

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Louisiana lawmakers have their faith and their hearts in the right place, yet they&8217;re about to make a big mistake, all in the name of God.

A legislative committee approved a bill Thursday that would allow public bodies, such as school boards, to meet secretly to say prayers.

The move comes after a federal judge ruled that beginning school board meetings with prayer violates the law.

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Allowing prayer, the judge determined, is tantamount to endorsing a religious faith.

Obviously, we disagree with the judge&8217;s ruling. So long as no individuals are forced to pray and the prayer doesn&8217;t exclude or discriminate against any other religions, the decision of whether or not to pray should be a local one.

In an attempt circumvent the law by creating another, the new measure would allow public boards to start meetings behind closed doors, excluding the public.

On the surface, the bill seems harmless, but it would tear up years of hard work to eliminate secrets in public meetings.

Open meetings laws help protect the public&8217;s right to know what its elected and appointed agents are doing. Prayer has a place, but not if allowing it could help officials hide other, non-prayer, actions and discussions from the public.

We pray the Legislature can see that eventuality before the secret sinning begins.