Proposing solution to P&Z prayer debate

Published 8:44 am Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Dear Editor,

When I arrived in Danville in 1969, I was an ordained minister of the Southern Baptist Convention and had been a part-time pastor of two churches. Soon, however, the associate dean at Centre asked me (in terms that I could not refuse) to teach a survey of the world’s religions, a course for which I was utterly unprepared and had no interest in teaching. Eventually, however, I came to have both some understanding of and appreciation for each of the non-Christian religions, and did so without the loss of my own core beliefs.

Reading the Advocate’s account of the recent meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the flap over opening such meetings with Christian prayer, I conceived of the following proposal as one possible way the commission might move forward in a positive fashion to the satisfaction of all.

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First, establish a schedule by which each commissioner would take a turn at opening the meeting in the way he or she regards as appropriate. Christians could open it with a Christian prayer. An agnostic, atheist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist, etc. would open it in a different way.

This is not a perfect solution, of course, since there are not now representatives of all the positions just listed, although there might be in the future. Most meetings would likely continue to begin with Christian prayer.

Yet the position has its benefits. First, nobody charged with opening a meeting would need to compromise his or her faith, although compromise is not necessarily or always a bad thing. Second, every board member would get to open the meeting in the way he or she thinks appropriate. Third, it would indicate and foster some greater level of respect for all persons and views represented on the board. Fourth, it would model for our young people the tolerance and respect we would wish for them to learn and practice. Fifth, it might even become another Danville “first” for the rest of the state, another instance in which Danville leads the commonwealth.

Milton Scarborough