On the issue of how opening prayers should be said before the Maine Legislature, a former employee of the Christian Civic League of Maine on Friday, Jan. 28, called for the resignation of the league’s executive director and a leading board member.

Fritz Spencer, a former writer-editor for the league whose job was terminated in August 2010 strenuously objected to an article posted in the league’s online newsletter, The Record, Friday.

Spencer called for the resignations of league Executive Director Carroll Conley Jr. of Glenburn and the Rev. Bob Emrich of Plymouth, who was a leader of the successful Stand for Marriage campaign that in referendum repealed Maine’s gay marriage law.

Spencer alleged that in the article, Conley went so far in endorsing nonsectarian prayers at the Legislature that he favored saying prayers without mentioning the Lord’s name.

“Your latest article on The Record is truly appalling,” wrote Spencer. “You have gone beyond tolerance and inclusivity to jeopardize the cause of Christ. So you approve of the guidelines for prayer in the Legislature, that is, you agree that you should not mention the name of Christ for fear of offending members of other religions?

“The martyrs in the Coliseum would be so proud of you, Carroll!”

House and Senate guidelines for opening prayers, which were published in the article, do call for nonsectarian and nonpolitical prayers, but Conley said he never meant to imply the Christian Civic League was endorsing the guidelines.

“Our article is not an endorsement of their guidelines,” Conley maintained. “People are just curious about what are the guidelines. The idea of a nonsectarian prayer is kind of ridiculous. If they start telling us how to pray, then there’s going to be a problem.”

“We were not condoning the guidelines but merely posting them,” Conley said of The Record piece. “We may clarify that in a follow-up article.”

The Jan. 28 article headlined, “How should a pastor pray at Maine’s House and Senate?” was written by Deb Wagner, who Conley said has joined the league staff as a writer.

She mentioned that Jan. 20, the state Senate in Hawaii voted to end prayers after the American Civil Liberties Union sent lawmakers a letter complaining that invocations often referenced Jesus Christ, “contravening the separation of church and state.”

The Maine Senate guidelines quoted in the article state in part: “There are no set guidelines regarding the prayer, we simply ask that out of respect for the diversity of the religious beliefs of the senators, please offer a prayer that is nonsectarian and nonpolitical.”

The House guidelines for prayer state in part: “We ask that you refrain from invoking language that would be taken as exclusionary. We respectfully request that your message be nondenominational and appropriate for people of all beliefs.”

The House also requests pastors to keep their prayers to no more than two minutes in length.

Conley said in the article, “Many Christian pastors use public prayers to secular audiences to call attention to the transforming power of God in all aspects of our lives. It is a moment to simultaneously proclaim and petition God’s power in our communities.”

The prayer issue was highlighted Jan. 6 in the Maine House, when several lawmakers walked out in protest of a prayer delivered by the Rev. Roger Tracy of East Eddington Community Church. Some lawmakers said they objected because Tracy’s prayer was too specifically political.

Conley, who joined the league in July 2010, has said he wants to lead the organization in a direction that is less adversarial than in the past.

“In general, reaction [to the new direction] has been overwhelmingly in favor,” Conley said. “We have some detractors, but I still respect those people.”