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TribBlog: SBOE's Last Laugh

You know that prayer that before today's State Board of Education meeting, which some found so inappropriate? It was read by arch-conservative Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond — but not written by her. In a gag on her detractors, she lifted the text from U.S. Supreme Court Justice and liberal icon Earl Warren.

Cynthia Dunbar and Don McLeroy

In advance of the State Board of Education's attempt today to undermine modern notions of church-state separation, board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, stuck her typical pose in a prayer with overt political overtones — performed quite overtly to start a government meeting. But a pose and a performance it was, it turns out — she was having a bit of fun with her detractors in the left-leaning blogosphere: She read the words verbatim from a prayer given in 1954 by liberal icon and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. 

"The entirety of what everybody is freaking out about, I can't take credit for," she said, smirking, in an interview on a break from the meeting. "What it really says to me, which is very sad, is that people don't have a grasp of our history." 

Here's the text, lifted from a Time Magazine article:

The last speaker was Chief Justice Earl Warren, who was raised a Methodist, now frequently attends Baptist services with his wife. "I believe no one can read the history of our country," he said, "without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses . . . Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia . . . or to the Charter of New England . . . or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay . . . or to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut . . . the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles . . .

"I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under law, and the reservation of powers to the people . . . "I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country."

Among Dunbar's chief detractors is the Texas Freedom Network. President Kathy Miller was surprised, to be sure, to learn the origin of Dunbar's prayer, which the TFN had earlier in the day called a "calculated and shameful attempt to use prayer to score political points." But Miller didn't miss a beat when asked about the gag: Whether the words originated with a liberal or not, they have no place in the public square. If Barack Obama opened a meeting with the same prayer in Congress, the organization's response would have been the same, if not more vehement. Where Dunbar's gag breaks down, she said, is in the setting where the words were first spoken: A prayer breakfast, not a government meeting. 

At any rate, gotta give Dunbar credit: We all knew she had the capacity to mix prayer, school and government — but to make a giant joke out of it all?

Miller remained unamused: "Making a joke out of a prayer to score a political point? Now that cheapens faith for us all."

Courtesy: Texas Freedom Network

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