MIM responds to Monroeville Council prayer controversy

The Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium has issued the following statement in response to reports that the Monroeville Council may face legal action over its practice of beginning council meetings with the Lord’s Prayer:

December 4, 2015

Dear Mayor Erosenko and Members of the Council,

As member congregations of the Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium, we believe that the power of prayer guides each of us to live our values. As a diverse community, we also believe that no single tradition’s prayer represents all of the religions of Monroeville. Therefore, we endorse the idea of a moment of silence prior to the beginning of the Council meetings.

With appreciation for the work you do on behalf of the Community,

Cross Roads Presbyterian Church
Bethel A.M.E. Church
East Suburban Unitarian Universalist Church
Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Eastmont-Penn Hills
Forbes Regional Hospital Pastoral Care
Garden City United Methodist Church
Hindu-Jain Temple
Metropolitan Community Church of Pittsburgh
Monroeville Church of the Brethren
Monroeville Mall Ministry
Monroeville United Methodist Church
Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh
North American Martyrs Roman Catholic Church
St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Parish
Temple David
Tri-State Sikh Cultural Society
UPMC East Pastoral Care

7 Replies to "MIM responds to Monroeville Council prayer controversy"

  • Preston urbahns
    December 7, 2015 (11:40 pm)

    You can pray silently before meetings now!

  • Josh
    December 8, 2015 (5:55 am)

    As the complaintant in a potential suit, I think this is definitely the route the municipality should go. If the moment of silence is adopted by the mayor and council, I will happily withdraw my complaint.

  • Mary Beth Cirucci
    December 27, 2015 (2:01 pm)

    I’m highly disappointed in the position that MIM has taken. One thing you all share is a belief in God. As spiritual leaders in the community, none of you are standing for prayer. That deeply saddens me as a woman of faith that spiritual leaders do not even want prayer. I would much rather see a rotation of spiritual leaders praying for guidance for our community leaders than a moment of silence. That’s what you do when someone dies…. hardly seems like the correct application… John Adams said that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. ” Even Benjamin Franklin prayed a beautiful prayer during the Constitutional Convention and recounted the time many of the same men prayed for divine protection during the Revolution. He is quoted as saying ” I have lived sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men”. Our founders were not against prayer. Why are you?

  • Bob Schaefer
    December 28, 2015 (12:50 am)

    Mary Beth, I think if you re-read our letter, you’ll find MIM is lifting up the power and importance of prayer in our many traditions. Prayer both expresses and shapes our lives of faith. Prayer matters as much to us as it does to you. We are certainly not “against prayer,” as you put it.

    We do believe, however, that the most respectful way to seek divine blessing in a religiously plural community is to create space for individual believers to pray in their own way for the needs of our community, while also respecting our neighbors who do not share our views on the power of prayer.

    The purpose of a brief silence at the start of council meetings would not be to remove prayer from the council chambers, but to allow it to become the freely-chosen act of faithful individuals, lifting the concerns of their hearts to the god or gods they worship. Taking a moment to permit silent prayer would actually lead to a multiplication of prayers for our community and its leaders, each prayer deeply personal to the person praying.

    In what way is that a bad thing?

  • Mary Beth Cirucci
    December 28, 2015 (11:54 am)

    I read your letter again. I guess a moment of silence and a moment of silent prayer are 2 different things to me. You claim it’s a freely chosen act of faith. I see the public prayer that was already occurring as a freely chosen act of faith and you are supporting the trampling of that right. It’s a “bad thing” because you are ebracing secularism of our society. Our founders never intended religion to be kept out of government. The reason for the Jefferson letter that referenced a wall of separation was merely to oppose the creation of a state sponsored church. Through this presidency he permitted church services in executive branch buildings because they were voluntary. It’s a “bad thing” because you are feeding into the misrepresentation of the establishment clause … Many people seem to forget the second half which states congress shall make no law “prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. It’s a bad thing because the Supreme Court already ruled recently in New York that prayer before council meetings was not unconstitutional. It’s a “bad thing” because you are buying into the false notion that religion should be a personal thing and have no place in public settings. It’s a “bad thing” because you are bowing to the god of political correctness rather than the God of the universe. Opening public meetings with prayer is a cherished freedom that the authors of the constitution themselves practiced. Speech sensors should have no power to silence volunteers who want to pray for their communities just as our founders did in the name of not offending anyone. You say you want to embrace our differences. You are just silencing them. What better way to celebrate the differences of faith in our community than inviting various spiritual leaders to open in prayer. I respectfully still disagree with your ” moment of silence” recommendation. I’d be happy to continue this discussion off line with you.

  • Rev. Paul Kirschbaum Monroeville Assembly of God
    December 28, 2015 (9:45 pm)

    The moment of silence is just as it states…… silence. It silences the passionate voice of a sincere individual seeking God for wisdom and direction. There is a time when silence is golden and then there is a time when it is just plain yellow. This is definitely one of those times. I would prefer the rotation as well. The alternative is weak, anemic, and pointless. With all of the problems we are facing as a nation, is this really the time to take YET ANOTHER STEP AWAY FROM GOD ?

  • Bob Schaefer
    December 30, 2015 (11:19 am)

    Paul, I’m sorry you find MIM’s position cowardly. We would prefer to think of it as respectful of the importance of prayer and the many faiths our citizens profess.

    While a rotation of chaplains would certainly be more respectful than the previous approach of having an elected official lead an exclusively Christian prayer, this would still mean that every meeting would begin with at least some citizens being led in a prayer that violates their conscience. I don’t think it’s fair to ask you or your members to bow your heads and pray to Goddess just so you can do business with your council – that would deeply violate your most important religious beliefs! In the same way, citizens who don’t believe in Jesus shouldn’t need to violate their consciences as the price of admission to their own elected officials.

    You portray a time of silent prayer as a “step away from God” without making clear, “Whose god?” Our government should not and cannot promote one persons’ god over another’s. Silent prayer creates space for each citizen to take steps toward the god they worship. I understand why Christians would want that god to be Jesus – but it’s the work of the church, not the work of the government to turn hearts and minds toward Jesus.

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