Suppose a bunch of devout Christians, who believe in the efficacy of prayer, get together to pray for someone’s death. In the eyes of the state, are they engaged in a conspiracy to commit murder?
To answer no is to take a position against the efficacy of prayer, which by the separation of church and state, the state is not allowed to do. To answer yes is to take a position for the efficacy of prayer, which once again by the separation of church and state, the state is not allowed to do.
So what’s a state to do?
This hypothetical was inspired by a Huffington Post headline: “Facebook Group ‘Praying’ For President Obama’s Death Passes 1 Million Members“.
Of course, “praying for President Obama’s death” is a somewhat loose description. These one-million-plus people are just Facebook users who have indicated that they “like” a group called “DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN.”
So, clearly, these one-million-plus people cannot be accused of actually praying for anyone’s death. But I think the original question, as posed, is still an interesting question. Perhaps even a nice little conundrum.