A newly elected county board member has urged her colleagues to scrap prayers at the start of meetings. Dawn DeSart, a member of the Democratic Party who was recently elected to the board in Dupage County, noted that despite the fact she is actually a Christian herself, the public prayer sessions are not inclusive enough.
“I’m not against prayer. I’m against using performance prayer to sort of pat ourselves on the back to say, ‘Look at what fine people we are. We’re praying,’” DeSart wrote at her blog in a post titled “Invocations Have No Place in Government.”
“It’s about the appropriate and inappropriate time and place for prayer,” she added.
DeSart argued that eliminating the prayer time would be the “right thing to do, on behalf of our Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Atheist, Agnostic, Pagan, Buddhist, and Baha’i constituents.”
Jesus would flip the tables
In her blog, DeSart further argued that Jesus himself would disprove of these public prayer invocations, citing Scripture from Matthew 6:5-8, which reads:
“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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
“If you are religious and believe in the power of prayer, even you must admit that ‘performance prayer’ is not said for the glory of God,” she wrote, “it’s said for the appearance of piety, the appearance of sanctity and the appearance of reverence.”
“And you know what?” the board member asked. “My God would not approve. Jesus Himself would be flipping tables at the irreverence of this practice.”
This week, “Friendly Atheist” founder Hemant Mehta was invited to deliver an invocation at the start of proceedings.
“You are the higher powers you’ve been looking for,” Mehta said in his “moment of reflection,” according to the Daily Herald. “You have a willing and capable staff as well as an entire community full of experts to turn to when you need help. We ask you to use your time to deliberate and debate, not pray and prostrate.”
Calling for the prayers to be scrapped, Mehta said that the board should instead “celebrate our shared humanity and our basic decency and do what’s best for the wonderfully diverse community and county that we are so fortunate to call our home.”
Religion does not belong in government. But as long as the DuPage County Board allows invocations, I’m proud to support Hemant Mehta, who will offer the invocation this Tuesday, March 12, representing another view from our community.https://t.co/qUdEWYiqYQ
— Dawn DeSart (@dawndesart) March 10, 2019
County board member Tim Elliott, a Glen Ellyn Republican, responded to the remarks, noting that Mehta was an “example of our diversity and of the mutual respect we pay to each other’s faith or, in the case of today, lack of faith.”
Fellow member Sam Tornatore urged the board to discuss the issue at the earliest convenience.
“Let’s take the pulse of the county board. Let’s each of us take a position and own it,” he said. “I will be voting for the invocation and certainly against the elimination. But we need to discuss it. We need to get it out into the open and be done with it.”