Hawaii State Senate Will Pray No More

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The Hawaii State Senate will no longer open its daily session with prayer.

Senators decided to stop the practice out of fear of a lawsuit. The state senate had been inviting clergy from various religions to speak, which led to a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU said in a letter to the Hawaii senate that the invocations often included "decidedly Christian prayers - with reference to Jesus Christ."

The Hawaii ACLU director said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the government can't show a preference for a specific religion.

The high court ruled in 1983 that government funding for chaplains is constitutional, but Hawaii's legislature does not have a chaplain.

Senate rules previously included language stating: "Each day's sitting of the Senate shall open with an invocation."

Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, the Democratic majority leader, said the new rules are flexible and allow the chamber to include invocations at its discretion, such as for opening day.

Only Sen. Sam Slom, R -Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai, the chamber's lone Republican, voiced opposition to the exclusion of invocations.

"I think it's important that we stress the need that as smart as we may be, as intelligent as we may be, that we can still call on someone higher to help us and guide us," Slom told the Honolulu Star Advertiser. "I think for us to take this out of our rules and also to, by omission, tell the community that we no longer think that this is important - I think that this is a mistake."

*Originally aired on Jan. 21, 2011.

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