Church-state debate rises again, this time in Stokes

Oct 20, 2015

By Bertrand M. Gutiérrez

Closing a prayer at a government meeting Monday, James Booth, a member of the Stokes County Board of Commissioners, said: “Now lead us with thy spirit as we go forth in this meeting. In Jesus name, we pray.”

Nothing unusual.

The Stokes commissioners regularly pray in the name of Jesus at the beginning of government meetings. “Tradition runs very deep and we want to continue our traditions,” Ronda Jones, the chairwoman of the Stokes board, said after the meeting. Now, the Stokes commissioners are reviewing their prayer policy, she said.

As Booth, other commissioners and audience members prayed, Steven Hewett did not.

Hewett — an Afghanistan veteran who successfully fought the city of King over flying a Christian flag at a veterans memorial on public property — wants to give an invocation at Stokes meetings, and at meetings of the city of King.

In May, he requested permission to do so.

Hewett, an atheist, still hasn’t been told definitively by Stokes whether he may do so. King, meanwhile, is still working on an invocation policy. And Greg Lipper, senior litigation counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is watching.

“One of the things we’ll be looking at is: Are there roadblocks that seem to make it harder for religious minorities to participate?” he said.

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2 comments on “Church-state debate rises again, this time in Stokes

  • Unfortunately, despite its more secular make-up, the UK does not have a separation of church and state!

    The Bishop of Gloucester is to become the first female bishop to take up a seat in the House of Lords, it has been confirmed.

    The Right Reverend Rachel Treweek, who is the most senior woman bishop in the Church of England, will enter the upper chamber on 26 October.

    She said she would be seeking to bring a voice of transformation to the House.

    Bishop Rachel was officially installed at a Gloucester Cathedral service on 19 September.

    During the ceremony on the 26 October, Bishop Rachel will be supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London.

    She will take a parliamentary oath and then take a place on the benches alongside other Church of England bishops in a group called The Lords Spiritual.

    “I am looking forward to joining and playing an active role in parliament,” she said.

    “Through the parish system, which covers every part of England, the Church of England has a detailed understanding of what is important to people’s lives, and where transformation is most needed.

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  • Northern Ireland also has serious church-state problems, with politics very sectarianised.

    A majority of Northern Ireland Assembly members have voted in favour of same-sex marriage for the first time.

    But the motion has been blocked after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deployed a petition of concern that required the proposal to achieve a cross-community majority.

    While 41 nationalists backed the proposal, it was approved by only four unionists, meaning it could not pass.

    .Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where gay marriage is not legal.

    Fifty-three MLAs supported the motion brought by the SDLP and Sinn Féin, while 52 voted against.

    The SDLP’s Colum Eastwood said a majority of MLAs had sent a message “to the young people struggling with their sexuality that they are loved”.

    But he added: “The abuse of the petition of concern by the DUP in this way is wrong and it cannot continue.

    “These institutions must be reformed so that no party can pervert such a critical instrument for protecting minority communities.”

    Last week, same-sex marriage legislation was signed into law in the Republic of Ireland after it was passed in a referendum in May.

    The DUP has historically strong links to Protestant churches, particularly the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster (the church Paisley founded)[]

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