By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
January 8, 2015
RALEIGH – Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) has released a document featuring the opening prayers made before session in the North Carolina House of Representatives. The document is 161 pages in length and provides the text of each opening prayer from 2011 to 2014.
Representative Stam says the impetus for the project was not actually spiritual, but legal. In late 2010 a visiting pastor was asked to lead the opening prayer and it was requested that he not pray “in Jesus’ name.” The pastor protested the request. “Lawsuits were threatened on all sides,” says Stam. “In the 2011 Session, I advised the Speaker that we were on the safest course by having prayers offered by members of the House of Representatives with no outside folks. Since there was no Chaplain at the time, it seemed to work.”
In May of 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Town of Greece v. Galloway that beginning legislative sessions with prayers does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment – even if those prayers are overwhelmingly Christian. The ruling prompted U.S. District Judge James A. Beaty to lift an order against the prayer policy of Forsyth County Commissioners. In 2010 the Commissioners were banned from allowing pre-meeting prayers offered in the name of Jesus Christ or other gods.
Stam told the Raleigh News and Observer (N&O) that he wanted to be proactive in addressing the threat of lawsuits, and aside from the time it took for staff to compile the document, it cost nothing to produce. He told the N&O, “The main effect was to avoid large costs for attorneys’ fees or anything like that.” “I was convinced,” Stam said, “that the way we were doing it would be completely distinguishable from the Forsyth County case.”
But Stam added the legal reasons for the project are no longer relevant because of the Supreme Court’s ruling in May.
“Perhaps you will find in it some nuggets of spiritual refreshment as you review the heartfelt prayers of my colleagues in the House,” Stam said. “We submitted the prayers for editorial corrections to members. We made a few grammatical improvements to help our collective image. Other than that these are verbatim. I hope you enjoy them.”
The first recorded prayer in the document was given by the former Governor of North Carolina (1985-1993), the Honorable James G. Martin. It reads:
Thank you. It’s good to be back. Since I told a reporter, I will disclose, as required by law, that I am here as a lobbyist unregistered before the Kingdom of Heaven. Would you bow your heads?
Gracious, Eternal and All-provident God, Creator of the Universe and everything in it, Sustainer of Life: we thank You and praise You for the many blessings You have brought to enrich our lives, the blessings of families and friends, the communities of faith from which we come, the bounty and beauty of nature all around us, the majesty of this State which has called us to serve and the glory of this one Nation under God and its blessings of liberty for all.
We remember and pray for those all we love who are absent, whose lives have been an inspiration and example for ours. Look now upon these Your servants, guide their minds and prepare their hearts for the difficult decisions and responsibilities that await them that they might serve Your people well and nobly.
We make our prayers each in his own way, for many of us in the Name of Jesus. Amen
More than 130 of the recorded prayers are distinctively Christian, mentioning Jesus Christ.
“This is a wonderful work,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Some people tend to think of the halls of government as a completely godless place. Certainly, there are challenges. But one only needs to read these recorded prayers to see that God has his people everywhere. The prayers of these lawmakers should spur us to pray for them. Often the tone of their prayers demonstrates the heavy burden of responsibility they feel, both to their Maker and their fellowman,” he added.
To access the document containing all of the prayers offered by members of the North Carolina House from 2011-2014, simply click here.