Maine Forms Legislative Prayer Caucus Amidst Battles Between Church and State

Over 150 people, including nearly 50 lawmakers, participated in a ceremony in Augusta, Maine, on Tuesday to announce the state’s new legislative prayer group, according to The Associated Press.

The caucus is in association with Pray USA, a Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation Inc., initiative that aims to "preserve the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation and protect American religious liberty," AP reported.

Governor Paul LePage, who introduced the caucus, told WABI TV he will continue to back a person’s right to pray.

"The separation of church and state is not a separation from public life. I find that very compelling because always our courts are taking the symbols out of our public house, but they can't take religion out of our hearts," LePage said.

The caucus stands as a proclamation to protect the rights of Americans to publicly pray and trust in god, WABI reported.

"Believers should have all the say so in influencing government and that's the intent of our founding fathers that we need to be free to influence our legislators, our leaders and fearing god and leading this country in a godly manner," Representative Dale Crafts told WABI.

Maine is one of several U.S. states in the nation to form a legislative prayer group. Since the 1940s, Maine legislators have gathered informally to pray, AP reported.

This caucus announcement follows a recent Supreme Court decision to pass up hearing divisive new cases on prayers before public government meetings. The court rejected appeals by school district and local government officials who felt beginning their meetings with prayers was not a violation of church-state rules.

The nonpartisan caucus meets once a week and does not deliberate policies or bills, according to AP.