Non-Believers File Suit to Change Prayers at Pennsylvania State Legislature

Pennsylvania Pastors Network Leader Gary Dull Says to
Begin Lawmaking Sessions Without God Is a Mistake in a
Culture That Desperately Needs Godly Leadership

A group of non-believers filed a federal lawsuit yesterday that aims to change how prayers are handled before sessions of the state House of Representatives, NBC-10 in Philadelphia and the Associated Press are reporting.

The plaintiffs say “House officials have denied their requests to make an opening invocation, arguing nonbelievers are treated like a disfavored minority who can be discriminated against,” according to NBC-10. They also assert that non-believers are “capable of giving inspiring and moving invocations, similar to nontheistic invocations that have been given in other communities across the United States”—with one major difference, some believe in God and others do not.

Pennsylvania Pastors Network Executive Director Gary Dull has prayed in front of state legislatures at least three times and has always received a positive response from lawmakers.

“Our nation was built on prayer,” Dull said. “Consider Benjamin Franklin’s call for God’s intervention during the development of the U.S. Constitution. Likewise, William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was a man of prayer and considered our commonwealth as a great experiment on religious liberty. Philadelphia was our nation’s first capital, and our nation’s founding is based upon the Judeo-Christian ethic that includes prayer.

“Prayer really does work,” he continued, “and brings God into the picture where He is needed more and more. Those who do not want to pray need not to participate or pray. They have that right in America and in Pennsylvania. No one is forced to participate in prayer. A question we should all ask ourselves is, ‘If people do not believe in God, why should they be concerned about that which does not exist?’”

Individuals representing three groups—the Pennsylvania Nonbelievers Inc., the Dillsburg Area Freethinkers and the Lancaster Freethought Society—are suing House Speaker Mike Turzai (R.-Allegheny), House Parliamentarian Clancy Myer and five lawmakers who represent districts where the plaintiffs live or meet.

According to NBC-10, the lawsuit states that 575 of the 678 House sessions between January 2008 and February 2016 began with an invocation. Non-elected representatives delivered it 265 times—238 by Christian clergy, 23 by rabbis, three in the Muslim tradition and one who was not affiliated with a religion and gave a monotheistic prayer. The lawsuit also adds that Speaker of the House Sam Smith (R.-Jefferson County) turned down a request by the Pennsylvania Nonbelievers to deliver an invocation in 2014, telling them that the House honors only “requests from religious leaders of any regularly established church or congregation.”

The plaintiffs are seeking a court order that will allow them to deliver an invocation and will prohibit pressuring people to stand for prayers. NBC-10 adds that House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said the practice of pressuring people to stand during opening invocations has ended.

Dull is a co-host of “Stand in the Gap Today,” a one-hour live radio program from theAmerican Pastors Network (APN, www.americanpastorsnetwork.net), of which PPN is a state chapter. APN President Sam Rohrer and Dave Kistler, president of the North Carolina Pastors Network (NCPN, www.ncpastors.netalso host.

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