Some folks in these parts wonder what the big deal is about county commissions or city councils inviting clergy to pray and then allowing the clergy to deliver sectarian prayers. After all most of the prayers are Christian and most of the citizens are Christian so what's the issue?
First of all, the government represents all of the people, not most of the people, so any time a government is in the position of favoring one religion over another it is in fact not acting fairly with all of its citizens. There's simply no compelling reason for an atheist or agnostic to be required to listen to prayers sanctioned by their elected leaders while attending one of their meetings. Obviously those same atheists have to accept that any citizen has the right to pray, and to do so in public if they want, but since the county commission or city council is the sole governing body for the things that directly affect its citizens (property taxes, school funding, land use, zoning, etc.) every person should have the opportunity to address that body without having to be subjected to a religious address.
Then there's what we might call the hypocrite issue. That's a polite way of pointing out that a lot of people who condone the practice of sanctioned prayers do so only if the prayers meet their standard for appropriateness. To wit this story from the NC Legislature:
A Republican legislator in North Carolina told a constituent that she has misgivings with an Islamic prayer being conducted before a legislative meeting because she doesn't "condone terrorism," the Raleigh News & Observer reported Wednesday.
In an email exchange obtained by the News & Observer, state Rep. Michele Presnell (R) was responding to a constituent who asked her if she is comfortable with a prayer to Allah taking place before the meeting.
“No, I do not condone terrorism," Presnell responded to the constituent.
Yeah, it's hard buying the whole idea that there's no reason for anyone to be uncomfortable dealing with an elected body that explicitly endorses prayer. It's reasonable for an atheist, agnostic, Buddhist or Muslim to assume that they'd get different treatment because of their beliefs and that's just not fair.