There's nothing wrong with a school board wanting to begin its meeting in prayer, said Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission since 1988.It is encouraging to see Richard Land speak about seeking "pluralism." Some moderate Baptists think it idolatrous to acknowledge it.
Land, however, said he takes issue with school boards that dictate the content of their prayers.
"Our Congress starts out with a prayer. These are adults, and they are not issues of classroom prayer," said Land, who also hosts the radio program "For Faith and Family."
Even in communities that are mostly Protestant or Catholic, there are a small minority of other religious groups out there, he said.
"The board should offer to seek pluralism," Land said. "I would suggest setting up a rotation, with a Baptist, Episcopal minister and a rabbi. That way you are acknowledging we are a very religious country, and it's important, but not giving the government favoritism over one religion."
School boards ending prayer for a moment of silence to satisfy a minority religious group may not be the best answer, he said.
"To say because not everyone is Christian, some don't believe, to scrub the public square clean, is for the minority to impose on the majority," he said. "But the majority to say they always have the podium, the balance is somewhere in between."
Land's "balance," however, is still problematic for people of sincere faith.
Prayer is an act of worship. I am not comfortable with the prayers and worship styles of some people within my own faith -- to say nothing of the prayers and worship styles of people of other faiths.
I will relentlessly defend every person's right to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience and I will just as relentlessly oppose any attempt to force everyone to worship with them.
Moments of silence are the least offensive way for people of different faiths and people of no faith to acknowledge a common commitment to a good that is greater than themselves.
Richard Land needs to decide whether he really wants to be forced to bow his head and listen to the prayers of Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans and others -- merely to be able to marginalize atheists and secular humanists within the public square.