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Letter to the Editor: Uphold U.S. Constitution

To the Editor:

“Do you consider the U.S. Constitution to be the highest law above all others?” This was the opening question asked to the seven candidates seeking a vacant seat on Northampton Area School District Board of Education.

The school board held a special meeting April 9 to interview seven candidates for the vacancy left by Chuck Frantz, who resigned in March from the board.

In between an interview, board President Doug Vaughn took the opportunity to make a statement about an individual’s comment, from the April 8 meeting, who was in the audience April 9.

In response to the director, the fellow got up and began to pontificate to the school board president and other board of directors that they should pray amid the decision of electing a candidate.

In fact, according to this fellow, they should pray for all the decisions they are going to make because he said that’s what our Founding Fathers did.

He called each school director out, pointing at them, and asking if he had their permission to pray for them.

The fellow challenged the school directors to open the next executive session with prayer. He went so far as to ask who was going to be the prayer leader and who was going to be responsible for ensuring they pray together.

A school director pointed out that was the purpose for a moment of silence in the agenda. The fellow insisted on putting some words to that silence moment.

I expressed my dissent from my seat because this fellow’s request was unconstitutional to ask a school board member to pray. As soon as I began to join the conversation, board President Vaughn called for a recess.

As the break was announced, the fellow pushing prayer and Christian values called me a communist as he went to sit down.

I welcome the atheist voice, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, all kinds of faithful prayers that have good intentions for the school district and its directors, particularly during the moment of silence.

However, to force school directors to offer a verbal prayer is proselytizing. At worst, it becomes a litmus test that pushes toward a Christian Nationalist agenda.

In essence, the fellow wanted to impose his religious views on the school board members. What’s next? School board directors imposing their religious beliefs to their diverse constituents?

The mere suggestion of a verbal prayer goes against the U.S. Constitution - the very U.S. Constitution these elected school officials asked candidates to uphold during the interviews.

In his autobiography, Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers and later a U.S. president, wrote about the discussion regarding the freedom of religion bill.

He wrote “an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word, ‘Jesus Christ.’ The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination.”

Were the Founding Fathers communists?

The Founding Fathers understood the protection of all individuals’ religious beliefs so that no one belief imposes on another, including Christianity.

Prayer with good intentions is good but not for political purposes that impose on the beliefs of others.

It is clear in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

That comes from the highest law above all others. The U.S. Constitution applies to elected school board officials. I think that’s the beauty of the U.S. Constitution.

The Rev. Nelson Quinones

Allen Township

Editor’s note: Quinones is pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Fogelsville.