Sunday, September 24, 2000

Prayer lawsuit

Whose side is ACLU taking?

        Ruth Harris thinks I'd be welcome to pray at Frisch's. “In fact,” she says, “I think if we ever needed prayer, we need it now.” But she says she's just the cashier at the restaurant at Fourth and Race streets. She believes I should check with a higher power.

        We consult the manager.

        “Sure. No problem,” is the official response from Krista Leonard. How about Bob Bedinghaus? Can he pray here? “Well, I don't know him,” she says, “but, yeah, he can pray here. A lot of people do.”

        Maybe it's different at the fancy places, the ones where you need reservations and they put lemons in your water. So I checked with Tony Medecke, a server at Palomino, downtown. They not only put lemons in your water, but they will let you pray your head off, if you want.

Funny looks, nice smiles
        The woman at the Clinique counter at Lazarus looked startled. “I guess so,” she said nervously. I'm thinking maybe she is worried that I am going to experiment with the power of prayer instead of the power of Turnaround Cream to “reveal a newer, brighter skin.” But after a brief discussion of “slip-on eye color with fingertip control” we knew each other well enough to be honest.

        I told her I would like to buy the facial soap and perfume spray, and she told me I could come around and pray any time I feel like it. Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus is welcome, too, but really he already has very nice, smooth skin.

        Albert Pyle, director of the Mercantile Library, says prayer is certainly permitted at the library, “as long as you keep it to a soft mumble.”

        Ditto the public library.

        I worked my way all over town, asking the same question. Yes. Yes. And yes. A couple of funny looks and a lot of smiles. Very nice smiles.

Speaking to God
        Some of us pray when we use the Third Street exit ramp. Some of us pray when our kids are late for their curfew. “Please let her be safe.” We pray when we're grateful, and we pray when we're scared. Not all of us. But some.

        You do not need an appointment to speak with God. Or a reservation. You don't have to be in church. You can close your eyes and sneak one in just about any time.

        So, you have to wonder why Hamilton County commissioners decided they needed to pray on the steps of the courthouse. There are so many other choices, ones that don't involve government buildings, ones that do not give the appearance of government meddling in our spiritual lives, ones that allow you considerably more privacy.

        And when you can pray anytime, free of charge, you have to wonder why the county would use public money to set up a rally.

        The American Civil Liberties Union sued Hamilton County Commissioners Tuesday for conducting a National Day of Prayer service on the steps on the county courthouse May 4.

        You could look at this as a lawsuit forbidding prayer. Or you could look at it as protection. Because right now we can pray anytime we want. Anywhere.

        All we have to do is close our eyes. You don't need a building or a government official as spiritual leader. It is tax-free. You don't need a license to practice. It's not subject to regulation.

        And our founding fathers wisely and expressly ordered the government to leave it that way.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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