“May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come,” President Obama said at the end of his speech today, referring to the victims of the Batman shooting in Colorado and their families. By doing so, he “ben[t] the rules” against government establishing a religion, according to the Center for Secular Humanism.
“I think it’s a little unfortunate,” CSH director Tom Flynn told The Washington Examiner. “Even in a situation like this, [when] he leads a public prayer to a deity that it pretty recognizably the Christian God, much as you can understand the emotional context of it, he’s still sending to some degree a message of exclusion to other religions who don’t call their god “Lord” and to non-religious Americans.”
“By the very act of praying, that’s a message of exclusion,” he continued. “If I’m a public official, I think I’m going to look around in the morning and conclude that, ‘hey, this religion thing is just too hot to handle, I should stay away from it in my official capacity.’”
Flynn was sympathetic to the president’s position, though. “I can understand the extraordinary nature of this situation in Colorado and why President Obama might have felt really moved to bend the rules this time, but you really can’t.”
Yesterday, Flynn rebuked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for saying that he was “praying for rain” at a White House event. “For a Cabinet official to recommend prayer as a solution or call attention to his own devotions may violate the Constitution’s prohibition against establishment of religion,” he said in a statement.