Mayor Deke Copenhaver
530 Greene St, Room 806
Augusta, GA 30901
Dear Mr. Mayor,
I attended the June 28 Commission meeting to hear about the lake dredging issue. To my great displeasure I heard the “prayer” by Father Jacek Szuster. It was more of a provincial political statement than it was a prayer. I was embarrassed for the Jews, Muslims, non-believers and even the non-Catholic Christians in the room. Indeed, there may have been Catholics in the room who were embarrassed by Father Szuster's display of partisanship.
Father Szuster opined about freedom of religion and made a statement about his church's protest on that issue, essentially a broad swipe against the practice of birth control. Unfortunately, Father Szuster's idea of freedom of religion appears to be one of his freedom to impose his beliefs on others. In his “prayer” he also attacked humanism directly. Humanism is a form of religious thought that is protected by the first amendment to the Constitution as are Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American traditions and other non-Christian traditions, all of which were expressly excluded from Father Szuster's “prayer” by his mention of the Gospels and “our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” In a government meeting where inclusiveness should be the goal, I believe it unwise to begin the meeting with an exclusive, partisan diatribe described as “prayer.” While some prayers, thoughts, meditations might be acceptable to the general public, it is difficult, at best, to compose such a work. And Father Szuster's attempt was most definitely unacceptable.
Father Szuster and others who might try on this robe of government prayer might benefit from reading Matthew, chapter 6, verses 5 and 6 or Luke, chapter 18, verses 9-14.
In the protection of our first amendment freedoms it is best to keep religion and government completely separate, allowing neither to invade the space of the other. On the issue of holding a prayer at the beginning of commission meetings, the Central Savannah River Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State recommends that the “prayer” be quietly dropped from the agendas of Commission meetings and Commission Committee meetings.
Sincerely yours,Frank Carl, President
Central Savannah River Chapter
Americans United for Separation of Church and State