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    • But I am willing to bet VERY FEW if any politicians over the years have
      trundled to the chaplain to discuss the ethical underpinnings of their
      votes, or what they should do about X or Y policy.

      It would certainly be interesting to find the answer to this, but it's unlikely to be possible.

      I think Madison had it right, but mostly I think it doesn't make much difference in this case. Unlike, say, abortion or contraception policies--which may be influenced by religion--opening prayers in Congress just don't affect government's impact on people's lives. If they had a strict rotation to include all faiths (and an occasional poet), it would probably still have no impact.

      A strict separation of church and state seems like an idea worth defending, but one should be pragmatic about it. The Church of England is a state church, but it doesn't affect governance there, and religious freedom is unfettered. In the US, government policies for education, healthcare and civil rights are all being influenced by religious factions, which seems more worrisome than a ritual prayer in Congress. Best to choose one's battles.

    • > opening prayers in Congress just don't affect government's impact on people's lives.

      I don't agree with this. I agree it doesn't have a direct impact but it has a subtle subconscious context that does indirectly influence our representatives. It implies that religion plays a part in politics. Even though we don't have a national religion, Christianity has a strong pull on a lot the policies and laws that are put into place. Prayers in Congress just reinforces this.

    • If there are 435 members of Congress and 300 of them believe in some form of religion (or not), then by definition, religion plays a part in government.

    • I certainly agree that religion plays a part in politics, and hence, government. That's pretty obvious. But do you really think there would be the slightest change in legislation if Congress eliminated the opening prayer? What policies would change?

    • There would be no immediate change if Congress eliminated the opening prayer. But it does legitimize the bias of religion in politics. By eliminating the prayer the hope would be that over time this bias and influence would be minimized and/or eliminated.

    • eliminating a prayer won’t eliminate bias. That’s like suggesting desegregation will eliminate racism. Here we are 50 years later and racism isn’t dead yet.

    • Don't get me wrong, we've come a ways. But the thing is, eliminating one thing does not necessarily make another just go away.

    • I'm thinking "Christian" is capitalized because Christ is considered a proper noun (maybe?) Not sure about Monsignor.