“Taxonomy” is an intimidating-sounding word for a simple task — naming things.  It’s easy, and it’s helpful in navigating the world.  For instance, real quick — what is this building?

No, this isn’t a trick question.  That’s a church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in El Paso, Texas, to be exact.  What do you do in a church?

That’s right, you pray.  Now, what is this building?

Okay, I picked a picture with kind of a clue in it.  This is the City Hall of Durham, North Carolina.  And what do you do in a city hall?

That’s right, you govern a city, like the Minneapolis City Council is doing above. 

These are not trick questions.  Nor are they very difficult.

Notice, if you will, how the two buildings are different, and built for doing different things in.  The church is for worship, for prayer, for religious activities.  The city hall is for government.

What is appropriate in one building is not appropriate in others.  Why is this simple consequence of taxonomy (City Hall is not a church) so often ignored?  Even here in the very city in which I live

If a legislator wants to pray before a governmental meeting, there is nothing stopping her from doing so.  Even if some kinds of generic legislative prayers are allowed (and prayers that mention specific deities, like Jesus, are not) isn’t it at least as important a question as to whether it’s appropriate to incorporate prayer into a governmental meeting?  City Hall is for the public and it is there to provide a venue for doing the public’s business.

I’m not just appealing to your loyalty to the Constitution here.  I’m appealing to your sense of decency and appropriate public conduct.  You don’t see me going into churches and arguing about the law as if it were a courthouse.  Wouldn’t be appropriate behavior.  So please don’t go into a building where laws are made and start worshiping a deity.  Whether or not the Constitution permits such a thing to happen, it isn’t appropriate behavior.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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