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Evansville, Indiana
November 15, 1991     The Message
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November 15, 1991
 

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'4 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Perspective November 15, 1991 By PAUL LEINGANG Message Editor Finding excitement, enthusiasm in preparation f 3r Thanksgiving A Thanksgiving time idea came to mind the other day. Perhaps you will find it useful. There is a story to tell first, to get to the point. That seems to be the way things usually worK. Thanksgiving was not at all part of the plan at the beginning of the story, but the application popped up during a moment of reflection some days later. That is also the way things usually seem to work. For the past several weeks I have visited schools in the diocese, in order to gather material for a series of feature articles. During a typical visit, I will meet with the principal first. The principal will tell me about the school, about its mission, perhaps something about its his- tory. But much of what we talk about is the pre- sent. If it were safe to make a generalization, I would say that principals work and live most tom- letely and enthusiastically in the immediate ere and now. I am sure that is the case for teachers and catechists too. After an unspecified amount of time, the conversation in a typical visit with a principal will begin to slow. The details of the new pro- grams in place, the new learning processes, the ordinary urgencies of daily school life have been discussed, and the end of the interview is obvi- ously in sight. At that point, it is time to walk through the school, to take the photographs which will tell more of the school's story. It is at that point that the conversation suddenly shifts again into high gear -- stimulated by the excitement of the school and classroom activities. Our conversation is renewed by the sights and sounds of the teachers and students around us. Enthusiasm returns. That is the typical experience at a school. As I reflected on it, the thought came to me that we all could do something similar in our preparation for Thanksgiving. To be thankful for the good things in our lives, we might need to get up and walk around. If we stay in one place -- even a llace of prayer m our thoughts may begin to lag. But if we walk though the places of our lives, thd ex- citement and the enthusiasm are sure to return. A walk through the rooms of our home may call to mind the joys experienced there. A walk down the street may prompt some thoughts about the goodness of neighbors. A drive through the community might stimulate some thoughts about what might be done to give others reasons for being thankful. Washington Letter Prayer in pubic places and the wall of nurch state separation I By PATRICIA ZAPOR Supreme Court since what he tells the handful of ments before the Supreme rule Congress sets ferJ,hll Catholic News Service summer, people who complain each Court, the attorney for Wets- chaplain is that of offerie, | They include the U.S. year about prayers at govern- man dismissed the court's daily prayer, Mr. FordjSui[ WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic Conference m which own as anu- | ment-related meetings. But it opening prayer What he prays about Town councils, legislatures, contends spiritual and reli- doesn't mean all prayers are "rote," Mr. Ford said that's a form are entirelv un to hi',| "It s no " appropriate, thing different  I[ school boards, even Congress and the Supreme Court have been doing it for hundreds of years. Yet the practice of invoking God's name in a public, gov- ernmental setting is being fought still by advocates of a stricter separation of church and state who hope a current Supreme Court case will re- strict such prayer. Lee vs. Weisman, a school graduation prayer case under consideration by the Supreme Court, is being heralded by advocates of greater separa- tion of church and state as a major showdown with the re- ligious right. "The ruling could go way beyond the issue of ceremo- nial devotions and mark a revolution in church-state law, a giant leap away from separation," wrote Rob Boston, assistant editor of Church and State, published by Americans United for Sep- aration of Church and State. Groups with interests on both sides of the case have been filing briefs with the The MESSAGE 4200 N. Kentucky Ave. Evansville, IN 47720-0169 Weekly newspaper of the Di9c.ese of Evansville Published weekly except last week in December by the Catholic Press of Evansville Publisher .............. Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger Associate Publisher ............... Rev. Joseph Ziliak Editor ............................................ Paul Leingang Production Manager ........................... Phil Boger Circulation .................................... Susan Winiger Advertising .................................... Paul Newland Address all communications to P.O. Box 4169, Evansville, IN 47724-0169 Subscription rate: $17.50 per year Single Copy Price: $.50 Entered as 2nd class matter at the post office in Evansville, IN 47701. Publica- tion number 843800. Postmaster: Return POD forms 3579 to Office of Publication Copyright 1991 Catholic Press of Ev,:r;sville globs values are being trivial- ized in the name of separa- tion of church and state and the Bush administration. U.S. Solicitor General Ken- neth Starr has urged the court to throw out the "Lemon test," a three-part guideline for determining whether a governmental practice has a secular purpose; advances or promotes religion; or encour- ages state entanglement with religion. "If the high court adopts the positions argued in some of the anti-separation briefs, Thomas Jefferson's wall of separation between church and state will be no more," wrote Boston. Yet the executive director of the organization which brought the case against a local school district over the inclusion of prayers at a mid- dle school graduation doesn't think Lee vs. Weisman should reach any further than school activities. "It's nonsense" to argue that a ruling against the school district will mean the end of prayer in legislatures and town meetings, said Steven Brown, executive di- rector of the Rhode Island af- filiate of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The case has always relied on the dis- tinction between adults and children" being exposed to prayer in an official setting. The age of the audience seems tobe the linchpin of court rulings upholding the right to offer invocations in government settings. Adults are considered more able than children to n:ke up their own minds about how to accept a religious message in the context of a citv coun- cil or legislative session. "It's clear that the Supreme Court upholds that kind of prayer," said Brown. T' "I always tell people they should feel free to complain," Brown said. "The mere fact that it may be l,gal does not mean a particular prayer is good from a governmental perspective." Legal challenges of prayers are fairly common, but few make it to higher courts. In North Carolina, District Court Judge William Con- stangy, a Catholic, has been told by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals he may no longer open his sessions with a prayer. Constangy's 67-word prayer asked for divine guid- ance, protection for the inno- cent, justice for those who have been harmed and mercy to all. Constangy has said he's optimistic about the chances of bringing his appeal to the Supreme Court. Despite such challenges, opening prayers are a routine of government at all levels. In 1983, the Supreme Court even upheld use of public funds to pay salaries of chap- lains for state legislatures, ruling that the position of chaplain is so interwoven into the fabric of the nation's history that it cannot be un- constitutional. Each day it's in session, the Supreme Court itself calls upon God to "save the United States and this honorable court." For nearly 13 years, the Rev. James D. Ford, chaplain of the U.S. House of Repre- sentatives, has either prayed at the beginning of each day's session or recruited someone else to do so. Formerly pastor of a Min- nesota parish and onetime West Point chaplain, the Lutheran minister said his opening prayers (:an mean different things to (tiffe.rent people. legitimate way for one person to consider the invocation. "It could be rote for one person, informational, educa- tional, piety, tradition, devo- tional .... " said Mr. Ford. "I'd rather have the differences than try to make us all be- lieve one thing. I can hear prayers that are different from my own tradition." In addition to court rulings upholding the practice of hir- ing chaplains, Mr. Ford cites what I'd give in a norOi] [ public setting," he explai distinguishing between2[ prayers based on specific lil liefs that would be more : ! propriate in a congregatiOO one faith. There is a knack to offeSe prayers that are approprs , in settings like Congre. where participants and, 0 servers may represent ;t gamut of religious beliefs, ..0 Mr. Ford is hesitant to aclV1' numerous religious "supposi- tions" in the United States, from the phrase "In God we trust" on currency to the in- clusion of Moses and three popes in a Capitol building depiction of historical law- givers. others about how to do it.. I have no problem giVi20 prayer that s appropria, dr. an interfaith situation, ."'to Ford said. "Others may [10 address somethino pecitlu, o S Od; their own area. When 130 ;re come in here to offero' prayer, I don't tell there ' While his job also entails ,, | i