Sectarian Prayer in Public Settings

Since the birth of the United States, in many places it has been customary at governmental and military occasions including dedications, inductions into office, and legislative sessions, to open public meetings with invocations seeking divine inspiration, guidance, or blessing on behalf of all those present. In recent years, particularly, it has become apparent to many of all religions that serious problems are crated for Jews and other non-Christians when public prayers are offered in their behalf in a Christian sectarian manner. Many priests and minister now regularly offer non-sectarian prayers in these settings so as to embrace all those present and avoid conveying any sense that the prayers are offered only on behalf of those who share the particularistic beliefs of the officiant.

We would prefer a complete separation of religion from government. However, because of its historical precedent and custom we must at least begin the task of eliminating sectarian prayers from governmental functions.

THEREFORE , BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of American Hebrew Congregations:

  1. Call upon those who are asked to offer invocations in governmental or other public settings to avoid sectarian references.
  2. Call upon leaders of governmental bodies and conveners of public meetings to work with members of the clergy who are invited to deliver invocations to sensitize them to the need to avoid sectarian references in public prayer.
  3. Call upon the lay leaders of our movement and our rabbis in conjunction with leaders of other faiths to work to develop community sensitivity to the implications of sectarian prayer at public functions.