West Virginia Mayor Enlists Churches To Pray Away Drugs and Crime

Huntington, West Virginia Mayor Steve Williams thinks he has a solution to the scourge of drugs and crime in his community.

In a video posted online, Williams makes a plea to local ministers for “all the churches within the tri-state” to pray on September 7 for healing of those experiencing substance abuse, for the protection of law enforcement officers, and even for drug dealers.

Huntington is a city of about 350,000 that sits near the state’s borders with Ohio and Kentucky.

The local news coverage of Williams’ effort is notable for the absence of any discussion of the constitutional concerns raised by a mayor’s enlistment of explicitly Christian prayer as a “silver bullet” for a grave and challenging public safety and health problem.

Williams, a Democrat, tells local news channel WSAZ that the video “isn’t meant to be political” and that “he hasn’t even shared it on his own Facebook page.”

In the “not political” video, the mayor adds, “I’ve come to understand and experience how powerful prayer can be personally in my life, and certainly what I’ve observed within my administration and how we’re going about doing business. Prayer is so powerful I cannot imagine the power that would be unleashed if every church on September 7 at 11:05 a.m. … would take a moment to pray.”

Williams has more than a few supporters, despite the constitutional issues raised by his endorsement of an explicitly Christian prayer effort. Boyd County (Kentucky) Circuit Judge George Davis III said Williams is “following the model that our founding fathers laid centuries ago,” adding that “before our Constitution could be ratified there was great fervent prayer. Before any great undertaking in the history of this country there has been prayer. I commend the mayor for what he’s doing.” 

Williams draws kudos from further afield as well. Lea Carawan, executive director of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, a non-profit that supports the work of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, wrote in an email to supporters: “We join with the other citizens giving accolades to this mayor for his plea. Consider joining us in prayer for this brave leader, and how to answer this call for your city.” 

I can’t help but think that supporters of these efforts are emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway this spring, in which the Court upheld sectarian prayer before town meetings, finding it did not violate the Establishment Clause. The Court leaned heavily on precedent upholding legislative prayer on the ground—much like those cited by Kentucky Judge Davis—that there is historical precedent for it.

 

18 Comments

  • whiskyjack1@gmail.com' Whiskyjack says:

    I’m fascinated by the resistance these people demonstrate when it comes to realizing the inefficacy of prayer. Don’t they remember how futile it was when Rick Perry got most of Texas praying to end the drought?

  • Dennis.Lurvey@live.com' GeniusPhx says:

    people acting as private citizens can pray all they want, but in his capacity as governor he cant ask for any/christian prayers. you dont have to, by law, establish a govt religion you just have to look like you do.

    our founders were not religious, the main actors were deists (who believe nature and god are the same thing). But referring to our founders for this is useless, we didn’t have religious freedom till 1940 in the courts. Its the cases since then that matter.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Research in Colorado has shown a more effective way to reduce drugs and crime is to legalize marijuana.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    “Pray for these things” is politician code for “I stand for these things.” Referencing prayer has the added benefit of deflecting responsibility while garnering a sense of public participation in a conveniently insubstantial way. Politicians are not going to give up such a useful turn of rhetoric until someone passes a law abridging their freedom of speech, which would be on shaky constitutional ground because of that very sentence in the constitution that you think already prohibits them from speaking this way.

  • cgoslingpbc@aol.com' cgosling says:

    There is no real scientific evidence, no peer reviewed and placebo considered studies, that indicate prayer works. If prayer worked the world would be a very different place and there would be no Atheists.

  • mjtkiwi@gmail.com' Mike Tanner says:

    Let him try it – I’m sure it will be hugely successful and reinforce the nation’s conviction that asking the invisible sky being to change his plans for these people will solve their problems. Oh wait, no maybe he doesn’t care at all.

  • jmmartin@grandecom.net' JamesMMartin says:

    Is he aware of hospital studies showing critical patients who were prayed for died in greater numbers than those for whom no prayer was ever offered?

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    The more prayer the better.

  • fbookheim@gmail.com' tatoo says:

    I don’t think it will work. In th end you will have to hire police.

  • mcorliss3@verizon.net' Michael C says:

    If I was as hideous as you two skanks, I would kill myself.
    Takes one gorgon to find another.
    Imagine the dead-fish odor….

  • deaconse@gmail.com' DcnScott says:

    What?

  • fbookheim@gmail.com' tatoo says:

    Now that is an intelligent reply. It just shows that you have no logical defense.

  • pre8082@yahoo.com' Joseph Stricklin says:

    Looks like someones mother didn’t hug him enough…he must have lots of friends!

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Try it and see.

  • Ok. I get it. Ya got nothin’

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Actually I got everything.

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