Should the Wake County school board open meetings with a prayer?
Email records indicate that the Republican board members are more receptive to the idea of having prayer to open meetings. Democratic board member Jim Martin, who was sworn in on the U.S. Constitution instead of a Bible, cautioned against the idea.
The conversations started when school board member Debra Goldman emailed the board and board attorney Ann Majestic on Jan. 19 asking what Wake's policies were in relation to prayer at meetings.
Goldman included a copy of an email she received from the North Carolina School Boards Association. The email included a memo from Allison Schafer, NCSBA's legal counsel, saying that federal courts have ruled againt sectarian prayers but upheld the use of nonsectarian prayers that "solemnize the legislative task and seek to unite rather than divide."
Schafer's memo encourages school board to review their local policies and practices to see if they comply with the Joyner V. Forsyth County prayer ruling made by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Majestic replied that Wake has not had a prayer to start meetings in the many years that Tharrington Smith has represented the school board.
Goldman replied back that "maybe it is time to start."
"Agree!" wrote board member John Tedesco in his reply to Goldman's response to Majestic. "A little prayer may actually help us."
Tedesco's emails include the Biblical verses of Proverbs 3:5-6 which say "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
"Wonderful idea..." added board member Chris Malone in his email to Tedesco's response.
"I pray for y'all every day," wrote board member Christine Kushner in her email to Malone's response. "Hope everyone has a lovely weekend."
Martin takes a different view in his response.
"I encourage us to heed the Christian scripture Matt 6:5-8," Martin writes. "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. 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. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him."
"I suspect other sacred texts have similar admonitions," Martin closes.
That drew a response from Malone to Martin.
"Jim I am not sure I understand the motivating implication to your aforementioned "admonitions"?" Malone writes. "Are you suggesting people should shut themselves away from the world to pray and those that pray in public, be it at football games, commencement and graduation events as well as before political board meetings are hypocrites? Let us know."
Malone includes a postscript in which he writes that "George Washington oft times referred in public as well as his letters to the guiding hand of the
providential hand of our creator in the making of this great country, and how we needed to stay in his good staid. A great reason to pray if you ask me..."
Click here to read the emails referenced in the post.