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Sen. Massey explains vote on Lord's Prayer


Letter to the Editor
web posted July 23, 2008
Dear Editor,
 
I read the recent Wandering Minds comment about my vote on the Lord’s Prayer, posted 7/21/08.  The poster stated that I was one of only 12 senators who voted against having the Lord's Prayer in public schools. The comment and vote require a response to clear up any confusion.
 
The vote in question was on an amendment to a bill that would allow state and local governments to post a display of the “Foundations of American Law and Government.” 

The Senate Judiciary Committee decided on a display to include the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Star-Spangled Banner, the Bill of Rights, the Preamble to the South Carolina Constitution, the national motto “In God We Trust,” and the image of Lady Justice. Why these historical items?  Two U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal have already ruled this exact display (minus the S.C. Constitution’s preamble, of course) satisfies the First Amendment. 

Although the bill successfully made it through the committee process, a group of Democratic senators was determined to kill the bill, primarily because it included the Ten Commandments.  When the bill came up for debate on the Senate floor, these Democratic senators offered several amendments in an attempt to prevent passage.  The most clever “poison pill” was Senator Brad Hutto’s amendment to include the Lord’s Prayer in the display.

The proposed “Foundations of American Law and Government” display bill is constitutional.  Senator Hutto knew that if he included a purely religious document, the entire bill became constitutionally suspect.  He also thought that it would be extremely difficult for Republican senators to vote against the Lord’s Prayer. 

However, the South Carolina Southern Baptist Convention and the Palmetto Family Council, both strong backers of the legislation, publicly opposed the Lord’s Prayer amendment because they knew it was designed to destroy the bill. 

When the vote came on the amendment, I voted “no” because I wanted to ensure that our county governments and school boards could display the Ten Commandments and other foundational documents.  Unfortunately, Senator Hutto succeeded; the amendment passed because too many senators were scared of being seen voting against the Lord’s Prayer.  Consequently, the bill, which ultimately passed with amendments, is now certain to be challenged as an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

When I campaigned for the Senate last year, I argued that we needed to change the status quo in Columbia – shake things up – and I said I would work hard, get involved, and do my best.  I honestly believe I have fulfilled those commitments. 

While other senators are comfortable just being in the Senate, I got involved and worked hard on legislation to strengthen our DUI laws, combat illegal immigration, tighten restrictions on payday lending, and make our state more business friendly so we can recruit good, high-paying jobs.  I have done my best to keep citizens informed through monthly guest editorials and 18 “Neighborhood Chats” (so far) around the district.  Most importantly, I have always been available to communicate with you by phone or e-mail because serving you is my primary job.

We have serious issues affecting us as South Carolinians: the economy, health care, education, and yes, the good ol’ boy status quo that continues to hold us back.  We will be talking about those issues and more in the coming months.  In the meantime, if you have a question about one of my votes or a position I hold, just ask.  Send me an email (shanemassey@scsenate.org), give me a call (480-0419), or just pull me aside when you see me. 

Sincerely,

Shane Massey





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