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May 23, 2010


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"You are welcome to agree with the religious test Joe wishes to impose on politicians... I do hold to the Constitutional principles of secular government, but that does not mean that religious people cannot or should not hold office, and I don't think I've said any different."

Did Joe say any different either, Ed?

In fact in one of those articles, Joe asks the same question that many on the Left ask of politicians:

"And it is an eminently reasonable question for anyone to ask whether Hagan's political worldview is shaped by her religious worldview."

That's almost exactly what is going on with your criticisms of Bill Knight.

Sorry man, but you are reaching new heights of hypocrisy with this one.

Ed Cone

No, I'm criticizing his decision as mayor to impose prayer at a public meeting.

David Hoggard

I, too, would be interested in hearing Bob's take on the issue. Not really sure where Sam is on it either.

And, I am pretty certain that Allen Johnson would welcome a column on the subject from Joe's point of view wherein he could also address his criticism of Kay Hagan's choice of where to worship.

Considering Knight's huge leap from private to public life and the learning curve he faced (and still faces), I've been pretty impressed with Knight's performance in the mayor's seat so far.

I'm guessing that with this prayer issue, Knight just didn't realize the change would be any big deal because that is how he lives his life and is likely shocked to learn that anyone would be offended by the change. Last he probably heard, Greensboro was still known to sit squarely in the 'Bible belt'.

So to your unread, sucky, column's first paragraph, Ed - I think it was "A": he didn't understand that it would be divisive and I mark it up to inexperience in the public arena. I think he cares.


"No, I'm criticizing his decision as mayor to impose prayer at a public meeting."

And so Joe Guarino's great sin is?

What religious test did he impose?


Hoggard, my opinion is that it doesn't affect me either way. I agree there should be some kind of limitation on religious involvement in government. However, I don't understand the way people get bent out of shape on both sides of the issue. I don't expect Satan to come and strike us all down if there is no prayer, nor do I feel like we are destined to become a theocracy like Iran or some other kind of state where objection to a particular religious belief and its role in government can have adverse consequences for certain freedoms like Israel.

It's a cliche, but there are far more problems to be worried about regardless of what side you fall on.

Ed Cone

"Don't vote for X because they worship at Y" seems like a bad road to go down for any number of reasons, e.g., it stirs up ill-will between denominations, it imposes a religious test of sorts on candidates, it denies individuals credit for free will and assigns them guilt by association, etc.

When Y = First Presbyterian, at least you can argue that you're not choosing an easy target.

David Hoggard

Agreed, Sam. Doesn't affect me either way, either. But for some, it obviously does... profoundly... on both sides, and it is too bad the Mayor didn't get that before making the change. Bet he does now.

So, I'm with you on your cliche, and think this prayer (invocation, whatever) issue is just so much unneeded and distracting noise that was better left alone.

Andrew Brod

David, I'm all for kumbaya moments, but let's not agree too quickly here. There are two meanings to "this prayer issue.. was better left alone." One meaning is that the moment of silence was better left alone by the mayor, while the other meaning is that the mayor's decision to initiate public prayers was better left undebated. My view is the former, whereas I gather Spag's is the latter.

Brandon Burgess

So if the mayor takes back his decision, then I guess it shows that he isn't insensitive to his constituency unlike our former mayor who apologized on my behalf for something I had nothing to do with?


AB, Maybe both are right!


Don't vote for X because they believe in Y (which might include public prayer)...

Sorry Ed, but you are falling all over yourself trying to extricate yourself from your own standards. You attacked Joe for essentially the same things you do.

Joe says Hagan is too liberal and questions whether she will govern according to her religious principles. That was it.

You get on Knight for governing according to his. The difference is ideological, that's all. Joe has no right to question Hagan or he's being hateful or partisan or sneering, but you can attack Knight all day long.

Pretend all you will. This is pure ideological politics with a healthy dose of hypocrisy at play.

Andrew is incorrect. I have no problem debating anything. But like many things, I find the narrative equally interesting and often even more worth debating.

Ed Cone

Questioning a decision to impose prayer at a public meeting is different from saying "don't vote for this person because they attend this church."

David Hoggard

I meant the former, too, Andrew.


Joe never said "don't vote for this person because they attend this church". He questioned the role her faith might play in her politics the same way you are criticizing Knight for the role he has let his faith play in his politics.

And that's before we look at your record of "sneering" at Christian conservatives over the years on any number of issues.

You also try to tie Danny Thompson to Joe's beliefs- guilt by association, another value that in the past when it suited your political agenda, you frowned upon.

It's clear that all of your stated concerns on these matters is a smokescreen because you habitually violate your own standards. "Can't we all get along?" really means nothing more than "Can't we all just shut up and agree with Ed Cone?"


"Er, let's see, Ed reaches a wider audience by publishing a column nobody reads."

You don't comprehend plain written English, do you?

"Arguably" and "assumes" as used are words that give you trouble, aren't they?

It's obvious that English is not your primary language.

Ed Cone

I don't know, or care, where Bill Knight goes to church.

I do care what he does in his official capacity as Mayor of Greensboro.

Brandon Burgess

But if Knight recognizes how this decision has divided our community and reverses this decision, it would show a sensitivity to the diversity of people he represents, correct?

And again, I don't recall the same kind of backlash, from the same folks, against our former mayor when she made equally divisive decisions but that is just an irrelevant observation. I don't remember her ever reversing any of her controversial decisions.


"I do care what he does in his official capacity as Mayor of Greensboro."

I think Joe feels the same way about Hagan. But that's somehow different, isn't it, Ed?

He asked whether her religious beliefs transferred to her politics- something you have raised yourself over the years with various politicians.

We can play this game for days, but the fact is that your criticisms are rooted in partisanship and ideology. There is no other credible explanation given the subjectivity of your own stated standards.

Res Ipsa Loquiter

greensboro transplant

"There are two possibilities behind Mayor Bill Knight’s decision to add public prayer to Greensboro City Council meetings: either he does not understand that it’s a divisive move, or he does not care."

nice use of the false dichotomy ed. as others have pointed out, there are other plausible explanations for the mayor's decision.

and maybe i'm just a contrarian, but i'm turned off by the whole moment of silence thing. maybe i'm the only one, but i don't think it's the feel-good common denominator that you believe it is.

Michele Forrest
"...And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men..."

Ribar quoted Jesus on prayer. To be clear, Matthew 6 is not a renunciation of public prayer. Jesus Himself prayed both privately and publicly.

In Matthew 6, Jesus is addressing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees -- in their very public acts of giving to the poor, praying and fasting. Each of these are intended to be acts of worship that glorify God alone, but the Pharisees were making a public show of religious acts in order to impress men, not to glorify God, and Jesus was calling them out on it. They weren't fooling Him. He saw their hearts.

The thought of public prayer doesn't bother me, it comforts me. But a non-sectarian, sanitized, politically correct, prayer to an unnamed no-god-at-all does no more to glorify the God of the universe than a meaningless and empty "moment of silence" does. Both are pointless.

Andrew Brod

GT and Michele are turned off by moments of silence and nonsectarian prayers. Fine by me. Proceedings of civic government would be best served by including neither.


Michelle, I haven't really thought about that aspect till hearing yours and GT's comments, but now that I think about what IS the purpose of a routine moment of silence at a publicly funded government function. It seems like a symbolic nothingness. It's hardly self-evident to me how it has "served Greensboro well for some time now"? As evidenced by what? What would you be inclined to do with the prayer vs silence thing if you were in the Mayor's shoes, if you don't mind my asking?

Andrew Brod

What's the purpose, CP? The purpose is to wedge a little piece of prayer into the public sphere. Sectarian public prayers violate the Constitution, and moments of silence and their ilk are all that can be done legally at an official public proceeding.

I agree with others' dissatisfaction with such quasi-prayers. I understand that a Christian wants to pray in Jesus's name. But others should understand that I do not, and that I want to pray at least in part in Hebrew. None of us is likely to be satisfied by an attempt to satisfy everyone.

To me, the logical implication of no one being satisfied is to say, well, if we can't do a proper prayer as part of a public invocation, then maybe we should put prayer back where it belongs, in the religious sphere: in our churches and synagogues and in our thoughts.

But no. The supporters of public prayer would rather have the pablum of a quasi-prayer than no prayer at all. In doing so, they're not really making a religious statement. They're making a political statement.

Brandon Burgess

Spot on, Brod.

Michele Forrest
"What would you be inclined to do with the prayer vs silence thing if you were in the Mayor's shoes..."

I would never be in the Mayor's shoes, for many reasons. But as to the choice between non-sectarian prayer and a moment of silence, I don't really see the point of either.

Public prayer for leaders is Biblical:

"I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God's mercy upon them, and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, for he wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone... So wherever you assemble, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy." ~ from 1 Timothy 2

"Wherever you assemble, I want men to pray..." -- both privately and publicly. "[F]or kings and all others in authority..." -- even though the authorities of that time persecuted Christians. It's clear that there is a purpose to the prayers for leaders, and that these are prayers offered to "God our Savior," the "only one God and one Mediator." This is how believers are to pray for leaders. But I doubt that this is the kind of prayer that would be offered at a City Council meeting.


"our former mayor who apologized on my behalf for something I had nothing to do with?" -- Brandon

What are you referring to?

Ed Cone

We can't have sectarian prayer, and many of us agree that the public alternative ("deracinated and bloodless to the point of platitude," as the column says) is unappealing.

A moment of silence is a compromise -- it lets anyone who wishes to pray do so, and it marks the occasion for all as one worthy of contemplation and seriousness.

I could live without it, but it strikes me as a reasonable solution to a problem people approach from many directions.

Andrew Brod

I'll bet he's referring to November 3, 1979.


"the Pharisees were making a public show of religious acts in order to impress men, not to glorify God, and Jesus was calling them out on it." -- Michelle

Michele, that finds the crux of the issue for me -- that it is not the role of governments in our country to glorify God.


"I'll bet he's referring to November 3, 1979."

I don't recall Mayor Johnson apologizing for that, but I could have missed it.

Dave Ribar


Many would interpret Paul's instructions in that letter as instructions for worship. For instance, the "New Living" translation of the Bible states 1 Timothy 2:8 as "In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy."

You'll also note that Paul's letter continues (1 Timothy 2:9-15).

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.


"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."

I tried that out on my wife once,........once.

Brandon Burgess

Brod, you are right but I was wrong. There was no apology. It was a carefully worded statement of regret and acknowlegdement. As if Greensboro was happy about the incident or denying that it happened. Nonetheless, it was not an apology.

Would you agree or disagree that if Knight did away with public prayer, that would demonstrate a sensitivity to his diverse constituency, even in the face of what he thinks Greensboro needs?

Andrew Brod

Yeah, I'd agree with that. Strictly speaking, the mayor's only announced that he'll do public prayers in the future, but sure, reversing himself and retaining the status quo would be an appropriately sensitive response.

Michele Forrest

"Many would interpret Paul's instructions in that letter as instructions for worship. For instance, the "New Living" translation of the Bible states..."

BTW, do you know about Blue Letter Bible's Hebrew and Greek Lexicon? It's a great tool for word study. I always like to go back to the original language.

But back to 1 Timothy 2:8, my point was that the kind of prayer Paul is speaking of is not what will be offered at a City Council meeting (which is definitely not a place of worship.) I still don't get the point of nonsectarian, politically correct prayer. Going back to Matthew 6, God looks at the heart, the motive. What is the motive for prayer at Council meetings?

And yes, I've read the rest of 1 Timothy 2. Are you saying that I need to hush it, because I'm a woman and I'm trying to teach the Bible? LOL. Hmmm... I hadn't thought about it like that. Perhaps I have strayed from opinion-sharing to teaching. Thanks for pointing that out, Dave. I'll be quiet now. ;)

Ed Cone

The motive for prayer at Council meetings may be a sincere desire to pray for guidance and to mark the occasion in a solemn way.

But all of the problems discussed here then ensue.

That's how you end up with a moment of silence, or nothing.

David Hoggard

Ribar. You have stepped squarely in it.

If women kept quiet, as that teaching tells us, we would have all stepped in it - and remained mired in it - long ago.

But it does kinda point out that we tend to follow the scriptures that suit us. To do otherwise would be very, very, confusing.

Dave Ribar


Thanks for the reference; it looks like a neat tool.

I'm not all that keen on nonsectarian prayer either.

The moment of silence allows people to reflect on what they want to reflect on (or not to reflect at all).

I am definitely not saying that you should hush it :) Paul's a hard guy to interpret.


"But all of the problems discussed here then ensue."

Like what?

If people get that bent out of shape over a prayer at a city council meeting, imagine how they would feel about a whole state founded on a religion or that is designed as a haven for one group of people over another...

My guess is that would be a real disaster...

Then again, maybe this is all a bunch of noise about nothing.

Andrew Brod

Then again, maybe Spag could demonstrate once again that he's completely clueless about Israel.

Andrew Brod

Or he could stay on-topic.

But no, that's a fantasy.

Ed Cone

At least Michele can relax, now that she knows her concerns are baseless.

For that I am grateful, because I'm fond of Michele.


Really Brod? I know that one of the Basic Law of Israel is that you cannot run for office unless you acknowledge Israel is a "Jewish" state.

Imagine if we had that kind of law here in the U.S. where you could only run for office if you acknowledged the U.S. as a Christian state. Would that be okay with you, Brod? Isn't that contrary to freedom and democracy and isn't that discriminatory and exclusive?

I can only assume based on your comments on this thread and all your fears and concerns about mixing religion with state affairs that you must certainly disagree with that Basic Law of Israel, right?

There Basic Laws are equivalent to our Constitution, and here were only talking about a non-sectarian prayer at a local City Council meeting. Surely one is far more harmful to democracy than the other, right?


"There (sic) Basic Laws..." - see I do know when my spelling is incorrect.


"Imagine if we had that kind of law here in the U.S. where you could only run for office if you acknowledged the U.S. as a Christian state."

Or imagine if we had a constitution that declared ineligible for public office "any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God". Oh wait, we do.

P.S. For what it's worth, I do object to the idea of a "Jewish state". But I'm the last living Yiddisher Bundist.


Do you mean to tell me that the State of North Carolina has made it all of these years with that provision in the state Constitution and we're all still alive! The horror! The next thing you know some mayor is going to want to say a prayer before a City Council meeting and the next thing you know we will all....what?

Again, I just don't understand the obsession on either side of the issue and it is that obsession that is a bigger deal than the impact. We all won't go to hell if there isn't a prayer, nor are we going to turn into some intolerant theocracy if there is. At some point there is a line that goes too far in either direction. I just don't see it here and is often the case, there are more important issues to tackle. I think that is what Piedmont Publius and others wrote, yet here we still are.


"At some point there is a line that goes too far in either direction."

Correct. And in this case the line has been defined. What the mayor has decided to do is walk right up to the line and stick out his toe. "I'm touching it, not going past it!" Kind of childish, IMO.

The prudent, conservative thing to do would be to say, "There's a line over there and on the other side of it is trouble. How about let's stay well away from it?"


The Supreme Court of the United States has already held that non-sectarian prayer before public meetings does not violate the Constitution.

This debate isn't about what's legal, it's about personal opinions and in some cases, bigotry.


from the pagan cultures we get models for christian holidays. saturnalia became xmas and several different fertility holidays became easter. augurs were occultish members of roman society who discerned the furture by the wind and the type of birds that flew in with it. the augurs beseeched the gods for blessings and direction for commerce, politics, war. since there was no conflict of occult and state, officials became augurs and carried out the function of priest and invoked the gods to do their bidding in the temporal tangible realm. as a slap in the face to the romans and other publicly praying pagans, jesus proclaimed his kingdom not of this world, placed it inside of individuals and told them to pray in a closet because the one they were asking already knew what they needed. one of his last acts in one of his few public prayers was to seek forgiveness for the group who participated in his murder. if he would have asked his followers to pile on and publicly humiliate the people who he said simply lacked understanding and compassion, that wouldn't have been very god-like and probaly would have killed book sales.
i never liked the theme of a father murdering his son with innocents in complicity but when i heard that jesus said "if you don't own a sword you need to get your ass out and buy one" , that spoke to my heart.

if the mayor wants to be his own augur that's fine with me. it fits right in with the pagan practice of electing leaders and the belief in earthly authorities who can circumvent natural principles.

Account Deleted

beelze: are you saying that if we sacrificed some bankers and AIG execs to Mammon the economy might turn around?

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