The following prayer to God is engraved on the "Benjamin Franklin Firefighter Memorial" outside of Scranton, PA's city hall building. The monument cost $50,000 and government officials including, but not limited to, the city controller were involved. Ceremonies pertaining to the erection of this memorial included a playing of "Amazing Grace" and a benediction from the Very Rev. Nestor Kowal of St. Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
While walking home, I spotted an interesting memorial in Scranton, PA that -- while seemingly with the intention to honor firefighters -- reveals excessive government entanglement with religion. One face of the memorial, as can be seen in the picture above, is prayer titled "A Firefighter's Prayer." The first sentence of this prayer -- seemingly missing a comma -- reads as follows: "When I am called to duty, God wherever flames may rage, give me the strength to save some life whatever be its age."
Upon some investigation of this memorial, I discovered that -- although this memorial is problematic simply because it is on city hall land -- this wasn't simply some private initiative. According to a Scranton Times-Tribune article regarding this memorial, "City Controller Roseann Novembrino led the project." Scranton's Assistant Fire Chief, Jim Floryshak, also read the prayer aloud during the unveiling ceremonies followed by a rendition of "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes and a benediction from a reverend who hails from an evangelical church in Scranton.
One should wonder why a city government -- which is supposed to remain neutral on matters of religion -- is including a prayer on a memorial honoring firefighters and, to top that off, including a priest from an evangelical church who gave a benediction following a rendition of "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes. Shouldn't something like this, instead of being sponsored and, as is seems, paid for by the city, be something private individuals or churches be concerned with? Additionally, it also seems to be the case that a prayer can't possibly rightly honor 26 dead firefighters because some or many of them might not have been prayerful individuals.
Shame on the city of Scranton for making a memorial to honor firefighters into a religious ceremony and, of course, being unnecessarily and illegally entangled with religion! I seek to, with the cooperation of attorneys, remedy this issue and make it known that the city of Scranton shouldn't be entangled with religion.
This won't be the first time Scranton officials have been quite dubious in issues concerning church/state issues. In the past, governmental entities in Scranton were just fine with "God Bless America" atop city buses and are currently not allowing the word "atheists" to be on buses because, on some accounts, the word "atheists" is an "attack on religion" which prompts "debate over controversial issues."