With all the turmoil across the globe, the threat of terrorists attacking us for our values and beliefs, and our struggling economy, we can find comfort in prayer and shelter in the word of God. In our successes, we turn to God with grateful hearts, and in our hardships, we humbly ask for protection and guidance. Psalm 107:28-30 tells us, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.”
While prayer is sometimes seen as a personal moment when we turn to the quiet corners of our minds and talk with God, we are also encouraged to pray in groups. We are told in Matthew 18:19-20, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” We saw this recently in Charleston, S.C., where Americans joined together to lift the community up in prayer. And we see this in our U.S. government, where prayer has long been integral at all levels, uniting us all across diverse backgrounds, party lines and seemingly impossible odds. Our Founding Fathers prayed before every deliberation and the U.S. Congress since its inception has opened every single session with a prayer. As a member of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, I join a group of my colleagues — both Democrat and Republican — on the first night of every week we’re back in Washington to pray for our country.
And most importantly, our freedom of religion is enshrined in our Constitution. It is the right to exercise our religious beliefs and the ability of all Americans to live out our faith.
Like Congress and other local legislative bodies across our country, the Board of Commissioners in Rowan County has opened its meetings with an invocation for years. However, in 2013, three plaintiffs sued in federal district court to stop the board’s prayer practice. I’ve been following this case from the beginning and strongly support the constitutional right of the commissioners to pray. That’s why I led a bipartisan group of my colleagues in an effort to defend prayer in Rowan County and across our nation.
I’m proud to have garnered the support of Rowan County’s representatives in Congress, including Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC-05) and Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12). We submitted an amicus brief, which is lawyer-speak for expressing our strong opinions to the court in hopes they’ll use it as evidence because we have an interest in the matter.
As federally elected officials who swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, we are weighing in and pointing out that we have a constitutional right to pray. In addition, there’s very recent precedent from a Supreme Court case, Town of Greece v. Galloway, where the court decided very clearly that elected officials have a right to pray — heir actions aren’t exclusionary and don’t in any way violate freedom of religion.
Our country enjoys an extensive tradition of elected officials making public religious statements that invite — but do not coerce — private citizens to participate. As we argue in the amicus brief, the court’s decision to stop Rowan County commissioners from opening meetings with prayer is unmoored from that historical tradition, and should be reversed. As a defender of our constitutional rights, I will continue to do all that I can to protect religious freedom and stand up for our right to pray. As a citizen, a neighbor, a husband and a father-to-be, I commend to you that the best response to the turmoil we face in our daily lives is to turn to our Creator in prayer.
Richard Hudson, a Republican from Concord, represents the 8th District in the U.S. House, which includes most of Robeson County.