Thursday, June 26, 2008

ACLU opposes lunch prayer at Naval Academy

The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening action against the U. S. Naval Academy's tradition of lunchtime prayer.
According to an article in today's Washington Post:

In a letter to the Naval Academy, Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, said it was "long past time" for the academy to discontinue the tradition. She said the practice violates midshipmen's freedom to practice religion as their conscience leads them.

The Naval Academy rejected the ACLU's request that the prayer be eliminated.

"The academy does not intend to change its practice of offering midshipmen an opportunity for prayer or devotional thought during noon meal announcements," the university said in a statement. It said that some form of prayer has been offered for midshipmen at meals since the school's founding, in 1845, and that it is "consistent with other practices throughout the Navy."

Nine midshipmen have complained to the ACLU about the practice, Jeon said yesterday. Some have since graduated. One recent graduate, an agnostic who objected to the chaplain-led prayer, said she felt pressured to take part in it.

The article indicates that the Naval Academy may be fighting a losing battle since prayers at other such institutions have been ruled unconstitutional.

The idea that the First Amendment is designed to protect us from religion is ridiculous. While I can understand prohibiting teachers and school officials from leading prayers or religious activities in elementary and secondary schools, we are talking about adults here. The idea that traditions should be altered or completely eliminated because they cause momentary discomfort for a few is a far cry from what the Founding Fathers intended.

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