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This is a new one on me:

https://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_we_choose_prayer

“Every Thursday for 25 years, First Congregational Church of Dubuque has served a free community meal that begins with a short blessing. But at a recent training from the local food bank, religious leaders were forbidden to pray out loud over meals made with USDA commodities.”

I’m with the author on this one.

“While I understood their position, this pastor chose prayer.

To be clear, I am a firm supporter of the separation of church and state. I do not expect to pray in a public school. I do not expect the federal government to fund my church. But I also do not expect them to tell me, as a pastor, that I cannot say a blessing over a community meal prepared by congregants in a building owned by a church.”
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I’m with the author on this one.

ditto
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Ditto.

I'm also curious about the underlying source of that prohibition. Was it direct from the USDA (i.e., from the agency of the federal government itself) or was it some local and overly zealous operative? If from the former--which is certainly possible--that would of greater concern. If the latter, I'd feel entirely justified in going ahead and violating that "directive," since it fully appears to be over-reaching.

I have a law professor friend who specializes in constitutional law, and is well informed on this whole area of restrictions on freedom of religion. I'm going to ask if he knows anything about this...

mathetes
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To be clear, I am a firm supporter of the separation of church and state.

I do expect to pray in a public school and any other public place where I am, I am instructed to pray without ceasing or continuously. The state does not have the right to tell me where or when i can pray nor the right to tell me to pray nor to participate in a prayer.

The state can arrest be for disturbing the peace or inciting a riot.... but the state haa no authority to forbid anyone to pray not order anyone to pray.

I do not expect the federal government to fund my church.
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FWIW, I did a little research courtesy of Google, and came up with this set of USDA guidelines. Could find nothing in them regarding the subject matter of this string. https://www.fns.usda.gov/part-250%E2%80%94donation-foods-use...

This doesn't meant those restrictions don't exist, of course, but makes me more suspicious that it may be a local official over-reaching his or her responsibilities.

My law-professor friend is away on vacation, but I have emailed to ask if he has any more pertinent information.

mathetes
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Adrian,

“Every Thursday for 25 years, First Congregational Church of Dubuque has served a free community meal that begins with a short blessing. But at a recent training from the local food bank, religious leaders were forbidden to pray out loud over meals made with USDA commodities.”

I’m with the author on this one.

“While I understood their position, this pastor chose prayer.


I'm pretty sure that the pastor is on firm legal ground.

President George W. Bush issued an executive order directing federal agencies that fund or otherwise supply services related to social welfare to make those services available through religious and non-religious organizations on an equal basis, giving the users of those services the option of choosing from which provider to obtain them. IIRC, those who advocate institutional Atheism on the part of our federal government challenged the executive order in court, and the courts ruled that it was religiously neutral and thus did not cross the so-called "Establishment Clause" of the first amendment to our federal constitution.

Of course, those who are offended by the pastor's prayer have a right to set up a communal meal in another location and to receive "USDA commodities" on an equal basis.

Norm.
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