I'm looking at a potentially sticky situation next week. I am president of the Board of Directors of the small nonprofit that is focused on connecting people with disabilities to the services and agencies that can assist them.
We have invited a local minister to attend a meeting of our board with the intention of him becoming a board member. His reputation is quite good. He could be of tremendous value to our organization, connecting us with an underserved portion of the population that we have not been able to access.
I have never met this man and know nothing of him personally.
The person who recommended him to our board also mentioned that he might want to pray with us as a group.
I have no idea about the faith or personal beliefs of most of the members of my board. We work and interact with regard to the board's mission.
I am very uncomfortable with the idea of a common prayer in one of our meetings.
Personally, I would not be able to participate. I don't know about the others.
There is also a legal question of our being a government funded and civic organization.
I do not want to offend this gentlemam but I also feel strongly about this.
Can anyone suggest a tactful and respectful way to decline an offer of a public prayer?
LoL, do what I do. Put your head down and wait for them to finish. Or if the pressure is on, ask if you can lead the prayer. It goes something like this...
Hey, God? Me again, yeah... um... and... well you know already so okay, bye. Amen.
I doubt anyone will say anything to you because it's 'religious'. lol good luck with that.
I know what you meant and I agree with you most of the time. (I didn't mean for my reply to sound snotty.) I've been "humoring" some relatives for years.
But just reading over what you said made me think about "humoring." I've done it to save myself from the crap I would have to put up with if I told the truth. However, on some level, isn't "humoring" the same as disrespect?
I know an argument can be made that a little white lie to save ourselves from those around us who see no viewpoint but their own is justified. I have done it many a time. I want to be honest with people but at the same time I don't want to waste a lot of my energy trying to explain something to someone who will never hear me.
Well, that was a complete change Of subject.
I understand you dilemma. I suppose if you really want his support, you might just have to humor it. Or do like Cole said and just tell him how you feel but is it worth it to you to lose the contacts you need over a prayer from a harmless individual or does pride (not that you shouldn't stand up for yourself) mean more to you at the moment then getting to help the people in need?
To me, it seems that pride can take a back seat when the real objective is to help.
I don't care if he is a minister or not. To me it would be absolute arrogance if he expected the group to pray. He is being invited to a board meeting, not a prayer meeting.
If the subject comes up I would tell him that.
As much as nonbelievers say that believers need to respect their views it goes both ways. Lets not instantly assume he is going to take over and start preaching.
Talk to him. If he is as well respected as you have said I am sure you two can come to an understanding especially since it sounds like this board is to help those in need and not preach.
If it really worries you I would just speak to him ahead of time. Say exactly what you told us.
"We really appreciate your interest in joining our board. We believe that you will be a positive contribution and will help us reach out to even more under served people. Our meetings typically include...(XYZ). Because I don't know the religious affiliations of our members I don't want to offend anyone by leading the group in a prayer. Do you have any suggestions as to get the message across while still keeping everyone's personal beliefs in mind? Maybe just by making it a speech at the beginning? What are your thoughts?"
That way he gets to say what he thinks and it isn't just you telling him not to do something. I'm sure he will more than understand.
My other big concern is that I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. This is an educated man who has done community advocacy work.
I just want to be prepared in case the issue comes up.
I do like the idea of "not offending anyone." Good idea.
Let him do it once, if he wants to. He will be an asset to your board.
Explain that your group is not faith-based. Let him know that not all of your members are religious. Make sure it is clear that the prayer is voluntary. And keep it very short.
I don't do god either but as a humanist, I have a lot of respect for community support and aid that religious groups can offer.
In this situation, I would not feel uncomfortable if I'm not expected to join in. I wouldn't want to exclude his beliefs as long as my beliefs are respected as well.
Ministers pray - that's what they do for a living. Most folks understand that I think. If it was a lay-person you are talking about, then I would have a different answer here.
Good point. I hadn't considered that perspective.
(I have always wanted to have a bumper sticker that said "Honk if you're secular humanist." However, living in this part of the country makes me a bit nervous about being quite so open.)
HONK HONK HONK
The words sound scary if you don't know what they mean I think. People's eyes get suspicious when I try to explain it LOL
Secular? Humanist? those words are confusing. It must be something evil.
If you are diplomatic enough, you could make it seem that your group is SO open minded that you allow people to pray!! You might even get a thank you from the minister.
Really though, in the context of community aid, I would allow the minister to say a few words.
Just ask him not to pray.
If he is a reasonable man - he will listen to your plea for a non religious meeting with no prayer to the invisible super being.
If he refuses - you know he is another political religionist and can live without his money.
I want to thank everyone here for helping me think through a difficult issue.
There may be more responses and I will read them all but this has just been so very liberating.
What a gift to be able to consider these issues frankly.
You also need to consider how much support/finance you might lose from supporters who will be offended if someone tries to ram an alien divinity down their throats.
Just tell him if he feels he has to pray Mark Knowles will want equal time!
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