Lawmakers considering state day of prayer

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- South Carolina senators were set to consider creating a state day of prayer to coincide with the national one, but never got to the issue Tuesday.

The Senate judiciary committee will likely tackle the issue next week.

Meanwhile, critics of the proposal question why lawmakers are mixing state business with religion.

"We really don't feel it's the state's job to be legislating something as deeply personal and essential to religious liberty as prayer," said Dustin Tucker of the Columbia Coalition of Reason.

The coalition is a secular-minded Midlands group made up of atheist, freethought, and humanist groups. Last fall, they posted a billboard in Columbia reading "Don't believe in God? You are not alone" to let the non-religious in the area know there are other like-minded people in the region.

Now, the coalition isn't alone in their opposition to a state-mandated day of prayer.

"I think that they (lawmakers) need to worry about our standings in the United States as far as education and schools, as far as dropout rates, whether or not children are actually passing the classes," said Midlands resident Amanda Pack. "That's more important than whether or not they're praying."

Others echoed those sentiments and pointed out they are not surprised by the proposal because of South Carolina's staunchly religious cultural makeup.

"Separation of religion and state should remain separate," said Midlands resident Amanda Rice. "But, I feel like because of the region we are in that would never come about."

Rep. Chip Limehouse of Mount Pleasant initially proposed the idea in 2010, soon after a federal judge declared the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. The Charleston Republican called it an assault on religion and said he wanted a state day in place in case the Obama administration lost its appeal.

Last year, a federal appeals court ordered that lawsuit dismissed.

However, Limehouse says the the state should still endorse a day of reflection.

His proposal ultimately died in the Senate in 2010. It sailed through the House last spring when it was re-introduced in 2011.

The fate of the proposal now rests in the hands of the Senate judiciary committee which never got to the item during Tuesday's meeting.


he church and the state should be kept separate and that's for good reason," said Tucker. "The church shouldn't be interfering and telling the state how to run its business and, likewise, the state should not be telling the church how to run its business."

The Freedom from Religion Foundation initially filed the lawsuit against the National Day of Prayer that ended up in federal court. The group says it hasn't given up on the issue and contends a state designation is more vulnerable to legal challenges.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)