Geri Beck’s invocations: An exercise in free speech, or a government ‘establishment’ of religion?

I wrote for today’s paper about Mayor Lou Sebert’s recent request to City Councilwoman Geri Beck to stop delivering the invocations at the start of City Council meetings. Sebert doesn’t have any problem with invocations, but he doesn’t think they should be delivered by somebody from the elected board.

Patrick Garry, a USD law professor, told me there’s two main ways to view the issue: 1) The mayor is infringing on Beck’s right to free speech, or 2) The mayor rightly put a stop to what could be considered government backing of Beck’s individual religious beliefs.

“There are so many arguments on either side of this,” Garry said, “that you can argue this practically to death.”

Arguing things practically to death is what blogs are all about. So let’s hear it. What’s your opinion on this?

16 thoughts on “Geri Beck’s invocations: An exercise in free speech, or a government ‘establishment’ of religion?

  1. It’s pretty weak of the mayor to not remember where he read the article at. Perhaps it was an article on the Communist Manifesto, it dicourages religion as I recall.

  2. I have no problem with having an invocation prior to council meetings no matter WHO gives it. What is everyone afraid of???

  3. If you don’t want to hear the prayer wait 5 minutes and enter when it’s over. Did they discontinue the Pledge of Allegiance?? Last time I said it, God was mentioned in it also!!!

  4. Problem with that is if you check history, under god, was added despite the protest of the baptist minister who wrote the original pledge. He was of the biblical mindset that christians should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto god what is god’s.

  5. Wow, because Pat Powers weighed in, Mayor Lebert should run right out, hold a press conference and announce he has changed his mind.

  6. Pat Garry is right in that this is something than can be argued to death. But I doubt that it should. One could argue that the council, Beck in particular, benefit from prayer, indeed may need all the divine assistance that it can get. One could argue that Beck is genuinely interested in the prayer, while others could say this is simply a political calculation. In the end, everyone will decide for themselves. But I do wander, was there not a local minister, rabbi, or priest willing to do that? What would the mayor do, if another member wanted to offer an invocation, too? What if someone by the audience wanted to do the same? What if it was a non-Christian?

  7. Beck’s invocation…

    Establishment of a Religion? I don’t believe so, but some undoubtedly do.

    Exercising of her right to free speech? Certainly, but some would think it better exercised at church.

    Playing up her personal political agenda? I don’t think so, but I can see where some would think so.

    Politics and religion are important to many of us, and they historically are entwined, but not always for the good.

    I suspect a lot of our public officials pray – just not publically – when they face a tough policy decision. (Just like students before a test.)

  8. Pat Powers is just a citizen of Brookings with a blog, oh, he is also running the Munsterman campaign for governor.

  9. Honestly, who had an opinion on invocations at city council meetings prior to this story? How many people had even noticed it? It really seems sometimes that we spend most of our time on the edge of our seats, full of anticipation for the next “outrage” to come along. Sheesh.

  10. You’re exactly right, Craticula. Nobody had taken any notice of the invocations until now. But that’s exactly why it merited a news story. When a routine practice by a government body suddenly changes, it raises the question of why. It’s my job to ask the question and provide the answer, which I did.

  11. there is no way of writing a civil-religious prayers that is universal? so why do it at all? Doesn’t the city council have better things to do than this? I realize this is the bible belt of the north but tryanny of the majority does not entitle some of you folks to go around beating up on the rest of us with your bibles. Maybe the founding fathers should have not only looked at freedom of religion but freedom from religion. We don’t need the establishment of a civil religion.

  12. Nothing sinister here. People of good faith discussing the issue. Councilwoman Beck made a judgment call & the major made a judgment call. Seriously, we are lucky to live in a country where this can be “discussed.” Other place people would be taking up arms. S. Tupper posed a legitimate public policy conern and is doing a good job of moderating the debate.

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