By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
(CNN)– Linda Stephens has lived in her upstate New York community for more than three decades and has long been active in civic affairs.
But as an atheist, those views have put her at the center of a personal, political, and legal fight that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
The issue is public prayer at her local town board meetings, another contentious case over the intersection of faith and the civic arena.
The justices on Wednesday will hear arguments over whether Greece, New York, may continue sponsoring what it calls "inclusive" prayers at its open sessions, on government property.
Stephens and co-plaintiff Susan Galloway have challenged the policy, saying virtually all of those invited to offer legislative prayers over the years were Christians.
"It's very divisive when you bring government into religion," Stephens told CNN from her home.
"I don't believe in God, and Susan is Jewish, so to hear these ministers talk about Jesus and even have some of them who personally question our motives, it's just not appropriate."
The town of about 94,000 residents counters that after concerns from the two women and others, it sought diverse voices, including a Wiccan priestess, to offer invocations. Officials say they do not review the content of the remarks, nor censor any language.
"The faith of the prayer giver does not matter at all," said John Auberger, Greece's board supervisor, who began the practice shortly after taking office 1998. "We accept anyone who wants to come in and volunteer to give the prayer to open up our town meetings."
A federal appeals court in New York found the board's policy to be an unconstitutional violation of the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which forbids any government "endorsement" of religion.
Those judges said it had the effect of "affiliating the town with Christianity."
"To the extent that the state cannot make demands regarding the content of legislative prayers," said Judge Guido Calabresi, "municipalities have few means to forestall the prayer-giver who cannot resist the urge to proselytize. These difficulties may well prompt municipalities to pause and think carefully before adopting legislative prayer, but they are not grounds on which to preclude its practice."
Some legal experts say while the high court has allowed public prayers in general, it has not set boundaries on when they might become too sectarian in nature.
"The case involves a test between two different kinds of legal rules," said Thomas Goldstein, SCOTUSblog.com publisher and a leading Washington attorney.
"The Supreme Court has broadly approved legislative prayer without asking too many questions. But in other cases where the government is involved with religion, it has looked at lots of different circumstances. So we just don't know whether this court will be completely approving of legislative prayers in this instance."
The justices are now being asked to offer more firm guidelines over when and if such public prayers are constitutionally acceptable.
Galloway and Stephens say the elected board of the community outside Rochester almost always invited Christian clergy to open the meetings, usually with sectarian prayers. And they say they felt "marginalized" by the practice.
"When we tried to speak with the town, we were told basically if we didn't like the prayers, we didn't have to listen," said Stephens, "or could stand out in the hallway while they were going on."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Washington-based group that is representing the two women, cited records showing that between 1999 and 2010, approximately two-thirds of the invocations contained the words "Jesus Christ," Jesus," Holy Spirit," or "Your Son."
And the lawsuit claims that from 1999 through 2007, every meeting had a Christian-only invocation. Following the complaints from the plaintiffs, four other faiths were invited in 2008, including a Baha'i leader and a Jewish lay person.
The plaintiffs say the Christian-only invocations resumed from January 2009 through June 2010. They claim those invited to the monthly meetings were selected by a city employee from a local guide that had no non-Christian faiths listed.
"Politics and religion simply don't mix, and they certainly don't mix in the local context of the Greece town council," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, AUSCS executive director.
"The town seems to take the position that because once or twice over a decade, it hears from someone of a different religion, that somehow is inclusive. It trivializes what's going here - a local government that should be willing and interested in participation of all its citizens, it wants those citizens to participate in an almost inevitably Christian prayer, in order to begin doing their business."
While the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York last year unanimously ruled against Greece's policy, other courts around the country have found such invocations - if inclusive and limited in scope - to be permissible.
Congress regularly opens its sessions with a prayer. Wednesday's invocation by House Chaplain the Rev. Patrick Conroy began: "Eternal God, we give you thanks for giving us another day. Once again, we come to ask wisdom, patience, peace, and understanding for the members of this people's House."
Nearly 120 members of Congress, mostly Republicans, along with several state attorneys general have filed supporting legal briefs backing the city. So has the Obama administration.
"The history of prayers offered in connection with legislative deliberation in this country makes clear that a legislative body need not affirmatively solicit a court-mandated variety of different religious faiths– from inside and outside the borders governed by the legislative body– in order to avoid running afoul of the Establishment Clause," said Justice Department lawyers' in their amicus brief.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal ministry based in Scottsdale, Arizona, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Greece Town Board, saying the Supreme Court has upheld the practice of government bodies "to acknowledge America's religious heritage and invoke divine guidance and blessings upon their work."
"A few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation merely because they heard something they didn't like," said Brett Harvey, an attorney for the group. "Because the authors of the Constitution invoked God's blessing on public proceedings, this tradition shouldn't suddenly be deemed unconstitutional."
Stephens realizes the stakes are high for her community and for the law as a whole. But on a personal level, this legal fight has been tough.
"I've received something of a backlash, both Susan and me," the retired librarian said. "Threatening letters, some vandalism to my property, things like that. The prayers, and all the controversy, it makes you feel like an outcast, like we don't count in our town."
The case is Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway (12-696). A ruling is expected by early summer.
Anyone who doesn't accept bajeeebus is going to fry in the oil down there fur eternity so there.
Yuk – I hope it's at least Canola oil.
There is oil down there? We need to drill deeper.
It gonna be peanut ole.
If they truly are inclusive, then they need to include prayers of all faiths, including the religions they do not like. If 95% of the prayers are Christian, it is not logically inclusive.
Also, whatever happened to Matthew 6:5? This religious posturing in public to get attention is exactly what Jesus said not to do. We all know it is done for the attention.
We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing, all-powerful god, who creates faulty humans and then blames them for his own mistakes. Gene Roddenberry
Sorry Shawn, but that logic is skewed. God made people with free will. Humans use that free will in a flawed way to please themselves, despite the instructions given to make life peaceful and please Him. We can decide to do right, or be problematical. There is no other way to have love but by the exercise of free will that lets me decide whether I want to love, or not. Sadly, many people choose the "or not" and everything else that is evil that comes with it. God condemns us for our choices, not our existence.
If God made us with free will, then why on earth do we have to please "him"? Do you even know who "God" is? Be careful how you answer that question. Be careful even using the word "God" to describe the deity you claim to have accepted by your free will, because that could be full of false assumptions, and if your assumptions are false, then how much of your own so-called free will have you exercised, especially if you're doing nothing more than affirming the dogma of Orthodox Christianity, which became the state religion of the Roman Empire after the Fourth Century CE. As far as state religions go, they do not allow for differences of opinion or so-called "free will." They expect compliance and obedience. Just try proselytizing in a nation with a state church, and you'll see what I mean pretty quickly when you land in jail.
I do not want to see the United States become a theocracy. You are looking for a one-world government where your religion reigns supreme with Jesus as the King of Kings. I'm not so sure even the original, historical Jesus had that vision. In fact, I think his original vision was far more limited, and the first Christians thought so too. It was only later, after Paul that the vision began to include gentiles. And much later that it began to take on the overtones of complete, global obedience to a Christian monarchy.
While it is true that Christian orthodoxy triumphed over other variants of the Christian faith, including Gnosticism, Arianism, Manichaeism, Docetism and other Christian faiths later considered to be heretical, they were not initially considered out of the mainstream of the Christian faith. Get that and take it in deep. The men who started these different branches of Christianity were initially considered not only acceptable but possibly inspired to the extent that large groups of believers hailed them as patriarchs in their day. It was only after considerable time that they began to run into problems with the so-called Orthodox Christians, who for one reason or another, decided to take their faith in another direction that gave them infinitely more power over everyone. That, my friend, is the truth of the matter.
If you want to exercise your free will, then realize that your concept of "God' is nothing more than an idol. If you truly worshiped the deity of the Bible, you would worship YHWH, or perhaps Elohim (a plural form of Mighty One), or maybe Adonai or perhaps any other number of names for that deity: all from different time periods and with vastly different connotations. Then, you'd realize that perhaps this deity is the product of human inspiration and nothing more divine that a poem, a cup of coffee and a piece of pumpkin pie while sitting next to a fireplace on a cold winter day.
One more thing. You wrote "God condemns us for our choices, not our existence." If you believe that, then you do not believe in free will. Just thought I'd point out the deeply embedded flaw in your argument.
Funny how Jesus said that prayer should be a private and personal experience between each Person and God.
Yet these phony "Christians" insist on inserting their religion and their religion alone into every Governmental act.
I think that Jesus would be very sad for people who have so profoundly lost their way, and angry that these people have twisted and misrepresented his name and message to push an agenda of hate and intolerance.
What is wrong with you people. Do you really have so much hate and spite and envy in your hearts that you have to spit on other peoples faiths? Why not let them believe what they want to believe.
All of you make me SICK!
Speaking of being "SICK", you just tore into someone who is reporting what the Bible said. Have you ever read one?
They may believe any foolish thing they want – including that they have an invisible friend. However, they may not use the government to promote their foolishness.
When everyone has insurance nobody has insurance. Their is no baseline for a reasonable transaction price between the parties.
Jimi – we don't envy you.
And how about this – yes, we will leave you alone. So long as you don't try to have the nonsense you believe based on your imaginary friend impact my life. Stop trying to limit the ability of women to access medical care because of your imaginary friend. Stop trying to limit the ability of two people who love and are committed to each other from getting married, having a family, adopting, etc. because of your imaginary friend. Stop trying to force public schools to teach creationist nonsense as if it were science because of your imaginary friend.
Atheists are not mean people. If people want to believe nonsense without having negative impacts on society, fine. But as soon as you whackjobs want your fairly tales to influence government, law, society, etc. for the worst, the gloves are off. We aren't against you to be mean. We are against you because you are wrong and harmful.
Nah, history shows killin' Christians is just a sport for ya.
Jake I will pray for you. I am against abortion not because God says its wrong but because I actually think its wrong to kill a child. Sorry about that. I understand from your post that you are perfectly ok with gutting out a fetus and putting it to death simply because you think that a women should have the right to get knocked up any time she pleases and then just kill the kid. I assume you would be ok with doing it up till about 6 months old incase you just get sick of the kid as well. I have never pushed my religion on anyone. I would never expect someone like you to believe in my fairy tale friend in the sky but Jesus has been by my side many times over the years and I will just choose to believe. I will continue to say a prayer before I eat at a restaurant or when I am visiting someone in the hospital. If you don't like it that's fine but if you think I will stop because it might offend you, well that's kind of funny cause it won't happen. Have a blessed day my friend
"Why not let them believe what they want to believe."
Nobody is stopping you or them, but if they give their opinion it is fair game to comment on it....and doing so is not hate.
it is not hate and intolerance, it is right and wrong, there is a difference.
Pray tell. Whyfore shouldst anyone pray? And why indeed at a civic meeting, as a prelude to addressing civic matters? There can only be one motive - to establish a religion, and to prohibit the free exercise thereof.
We're still in the dark ages.
And as long as the raving theocrats hold sway we will remain in the dark ages.
Oh, it gets worse.
"Amo 5:18 Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light."
So not praying is how an atheist practices their belief and they want that to trump the belief of the religious?? We know where the majority comes down on this subject. If the Atheist wants to remain silent and the religious wants to pray I say let them both do what they wish and one should not infringe on the other. Or anther way to put it ,both should mind their own business!!!
What would happen if I read a page from one of Dawkins's books, let's say The God Delusion, at a public meeting, and called for people to "amen" what I read? Think anyone would be too offended to stay? Why should one side get a captive audience to express their beliefs too?
The atheists would mind their own business if the Christians would get out of their face.
You haven't addressed why there must be prayer in the first place. Help me figure that out. Why can't you just say "We're all here, now let's get down to business". Asking your invisible friend for guidance is pointless and useless, except to sooth people who believe in fairy tales.
You might feel differently if Islam over takes Christianity. How would you if instead of bowing your head in prayer before a public meeting, 51% of the attendees moved the furniture out of the way and en mas knelt to the east and prayed?
Religion has no place in government. I don't know why this is so unclear to those of faith. One's spiritual convictions should not have any influence on how our tax dollars are allocated to the community.
That's one mighty deep black hole of debt, but I know, I know, "We're not debtors!! We have no sin or debt!!"
"The justices on Wednesday will hear arguments over whether Greece, New York, may continue sponsoring what it calls "inclusive" prayers at its open sessions, on government property."
"inclusive" prayers at its open sessions, on government property"
"government property" – Why does this need to go to the supreme court? By definition, it's separation of church and state. Isn't there a lower court judge that heard this case that isn't a complete moron at interpreting the law?
It's going to the SC because Greece didn't like the ruling.
"While the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York last year unanimously ruled against Greece’s policy, other courts around the country have found such invocations — if inclusive and limited in scope — to be permissible."
When our founding fathers worked to insure a seperation between church and state they were not concerned with a prayer opening an event. They were considered with the church taking over the new government.
Prayers opening events implies that the Christian God is overseeing our government. Tell me, do you see our government as being independent and serving people of all faiths, or is it only for the Christians?
The 'event' was a town board meeting, jackhole.
"jackhole" ? Really?
Couldn't you dumb cunts do better than that!
Or at least make a useful post. "The 'event' was a town board meeting", well DUH! I think the article said something about that.
My point was, and still is, that trying to use the words of the founding fathers out of context does naot make for a valid arguement. Now go insult yourself you worthless motherfucker.
Out of context? How is that?
Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.
The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.
Aside from having to listen to something at a government function that is outside of one's belief, their time is wasted.
James Madison, Father of the Const-itution & Bill of Rights came to oppose the long-established practice of employing chaplains at public expense in the House of Representatives and Senate on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state and the principles of religious freedom. (See Library of Congress – James Madison Papers – Detached memorandum, ca. 1823.)
The Founding Fathers were concerned about one specific denomination ruling over the entire nation through the role of government, where it would create a conflict. The Separation of Church and State was not created to ensure 'no religion' but, instead, to ensure that denominations won't fight each other through the role of government.
I'm not sure we dissagree.
They were aware of the influence the church had over many governments in Europe, and wanted to ensure that a theocracy did not replace our republic.
Well, later on, the Separation of Church and State became a mechanism for multiple things, a manifold. It's like it was a good problem to have that lead to this mechanism.
–James Madison, Father of the Consti-tution and the Bill of Rights
I have been saying all along that the Separation of Church and State is a good thing. It protects both!
So, in reality, it is a conflict preventing measure, which in turn is a protective measure. But, it is not a 'religion preventive measure!'
Frank Zappa: If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine – but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you've been bad or good – and cares about any of it – to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.
Frank Zappa regarding religion:
Remember, there's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.
How ironic, then, that it is the religious who refuse to acknowledge their kinship to chimps. As for me, ooh ooh aah aah AAAAAHHHHEEEEAAHHHH!
Wow you must be really old to have talked to them about this.
Excellent point James.
We should all ignore any part of history we did not personally witness.
I say separate the meetings and see how much gets done in the godless domain. They don't need nor want anything from God so they don't need Chritian or any other faiths help.
So the Godless and the followers of Christ should not mix? Have a nice isolated life...
Of course they should not mix. Look up the term "collective cognitive imperative", as described by Julian Jaynes. Dissent is a dangerous thing to those whose mindset is based upon willful ignorance and a carefully crafted alternate reality.
Hilariously, nothing would change. Just like what happens when you pray.
If Jesus would just finally come and take you people we wouldn't have any of these issues. Doesn't look like it's ever going to happen, unfortunately.
We tried segregation wid dem dere colored folk. It didn't work.
As a fellow atheist I say "Who cares". Religion is silly, but so is wasting time over a few religious words. There are much bigger things to worry about and if a one minute prayer makes a few feeble minded people feel good, or possibly even behave better, then so what.
"I care"...Citizens shouldn't be required to participate in group worship in order to conduct business with their local government.
Thanks TTmilbr, The only thing I would oppose would be stupidity or hate, and prayer and you are void of such non-sense.
Not really.. Most prayer does indeed intimidate, and is therefore a form of hate. If you have God, Allah, Buddha, Christ or whomever in your heart good for you, but don't push it on those that don't..
The time doesn't bother me, but being present while someone spouts off nonsense about how people should live their lives can be grating on the nerves.. It's similar to the irritation I get when I hear someone say something racist or other ignorant information that can hurt people.
I agree. I actually find it amusing that adults believe in such things as gods, tooth fairies, easter bunnies and other silly things. As long as they're not taking up half the meeting with a sermon, I say no harm, no foul.
Give me equal time to speak my mind amidst such a gathering, and I would be much more inclined to graciously tolerate such nonsense.
When I retired from a private college that was only nominally connected with a church, there was a prayer before my retirement dinner! Totally inappropriate. Let the people who want religion pay for it. I don't want my taxes to pay for any religious practices. And at present my taxes pay for chaplains of all sorts and "faith based" activities. This is worse than hauling out ministers to say prayers at the drop of a hat.
There is no reason why there needs to be a prayer at the beginning of these meetings. And saying they let a couple of WIccans get up there and pray now and then just to save face doesn't make it right... this is a predominately Christian affair and everyone knows it. Unless they're also allowing Satanists, Scientologists, Muslims, etc. up there on a REGULAR BASIS (which I doubt they are doing) this is nothing more than posturing and a way for them to shove Christianity down everyone's throats.
"In God We Trust" is printed on every single piece of currency and coin...well this isnt seperation.
And that needs to go to. And every other reference to any god on every public building and from every government procedure.
I agree .........many if not all have not been too godly!
It was added in the 50s. It can be just as easily be removed. The USSR doesn't exist any more.
The Knights of Columbus shouldn't have been allowed to amend the pledge with their God.
Let us prey on/for the weak, the sick, the scared
Yup, they sure do prey upon the sick and helpless, kinda like vultures, really. :-)
Prayer Changes Nothing
Well, it changes the balance sheets of the churches... and those of Wal-Mart and IHOP etc., where the flocks go after church on Sundays!
Don't we have flocks so they can be fleeced?
I like a nice wool kaftan in the winter months, Let the sheep be sheared.
Selling prayer books and religious gee-gaws create jobs!
Almost all the trinkets found in the Vatican gift shop are crap goods from China, they keep the good stuff in underground vaults.
Here is one of my favorites:
The Authentic St. Joseph Home Sale Practice
I like the snow globe with the ahem! Virgin Mary flanked by her two boys Jesus and James. I mean really virgin.
Are you aware of the scientific studies demonstrating the healing effects of prayer? It is proven whether you choose to believe it or not.
There is no scientific evidence that prayer works. There have been several scientific studies showing that prayer does nothing.
Are you aware of the scientific studies demonstrating that pixie dust is real?
There have been studies that suggest patients with faith do better with prayer.
However, it could just be that a more possitive attitude helps in healing.
Look into the power of laughter on healing. God doesn't need to be present for these things to happen.
Now all you have to do is cite the studies you claim have been done. And, assuming you are are a good little believer that is supposed to follow your cult's ethical and moral rules, don't forget to cite the studies debunking the ones you think support your claim.
Here is a good list en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer it has both successes, failures and inconclusive studies. Taking them as a whole, it appears that it helps rather than hurts. It is a very difficult thing to measure, however, the results show improved health and less hospitalization of ill patients participating. One may point out 'placebo effect', but that is quite an effect, especially in patients with advanced AIDS, It it is most likly an effect of biofeedback. If you go to the drugstore and find one of those free 'check your blood pressure' chairs and think about being on a roller coaster while in it, your blood pressure will show a higher result than normal. It is only logical, that if you are focused on your body through prayer or meditation, you can have a direct effect.
I understand the placebo effect (and believe it is at work for prayer) and am aware of the potentially positive effect on the one praying and the potentially negative effect on the one being prayed for. But the context here is the ability of prayer to get an alleged supernatural being to actually intervene. All results to date are no better than random chance and the placebo effect.
Reldra, no one could possibly read that and think that prayer has a useful effect. You cited our source for proving prayer useless. Thanks.
Unfortunately, we're limited by the methods employed by the individual studies; however, it appears rather clear that when appropriate design and controls are in place, the outcomes support a null hypothesis of no effect. In other words, when a review of the science is restricted to the best research, the evidence strongly rejects benefits of intercessory prayer.
PLEASE show me those studies! I can only imagine how unscientific they are...
I think that there's actually been some studies that show that sick people who know that they're being preyed for actually get worse, because they interpret it as a sign that they're far worse off than they actually are. They take it as their sign to give up fighting and prepare to die.
I am not particularly religious. But there have been studies showing prayer to be stress reducing, which, technically can be called 'healing'. Like meditation. But I hardly think the one short prayer in a town hall before a legislative meeting could be categorized as meditative or healing. I agree there is no reason whatsoever to have a prayer preceeding this type of government function- even if you rotate minister/reverend/priest types it is not the place.
Se x, drugs and sports can all be stress reducing as well, but do not forget that many people offer quite anguished prayers to God because they are almost frantic concerning someone's chances of enjoying their afterlife. In these cases, wouldn't you say that some prayers actually add to people's stress?
Time to look up the placebo effect.
Stop it – you're stressing me out.
I note that you don't cite a source.
Prayer has no usefulness, except to the person praying because they believe they are actually doing something (placebo effect).
I LOVE how you right-wingers make up facts. Truth doesn't actually matter. (Hmm...maybe that is why you folks take the Bible seriously). Reliable studies of this matter, to the extent they exist, suggest that prayer is ineffectual. Anyone who says otherwise is simply being dishonest.
Come'on. Man, let it go.
You have stated some ridiculous b.s. There is NO scientific evidence that prayer does anything.
But we don't need a study to know that talking to your imaginary friend in your head will have no impact on the outcome. None.
You are being ridiculous with that claim.
Magical thinking does not help anyone. The sooner we get rid of this magical belief system the better off we will all be.
Lets distinguish prayer in public from what many call public prayer.
Where I live, many congregate on the beach on Sundays to pray together. That is a public place, and I have no issue what so ever with it.
That is different than prayer during public/Government proceedings. I don't think Government should be tacitly aligning with religion in their duties. Government can ally with religions to support the poor or assuage pain after a disaster, but in the conduct of their daily duties. It makes it look like they are unduly influenced by those enti ties. Many of our founding fathers agree.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
In this case, no act of Congress, no law, no effort to establish religion. No violation.
No effort, in that case perceptions matter.
nclaw, you're forgetting about the 14th amendment. Supreme Court precedent has held that the 1st amendment is applicable to state and local government via the 14th. Thus, when the government officials Town of Greece perform a prayer as an official, government act, they are "making a law" regarding the establishment of religion. This is how the 1st/14th amendments have been read for decades.
This, by the way, is why I hate CNN comments – so many are based on ignorance.
There's public prayer in the parks where I live. There's a noise bylaw that this group continually breaks, but they never seem to care. I wonder if they even get warned about it?
I have heard a lot of things, but I have never heard a noisy prayer, usually people and quite and calm, what kind of prayers are you talking about??
I personally believe that the public prayer issue is reaching an unrealistic sensitivity level! I don't understand how atheists perceive public prayer as offensive as they do while it is pretty much done as a tradition anymore! Public prayer is not intended for imposing certain beliefs on anyone nor is it intended for violating the Separation of Church and State; it is just what the majority has been used to throughout the history of America!
Sounds like they could give it up quite easily, then.
I always thought that the Gideon bible placed in hotel rooms were there in case the cleaning lady forgot the extra roll of toilet paper. Recently I have found fewer and fewer bibles in place, used up and flushed I aszume.
Something to print and paste in/on those Bibles:
Warning: Someone has placed this book here in an attempt to recruit you for their religion. They want you to believe that this is literally a magic book; however, its contents are not based on reason, logic, or factual evidence. This book is a collection of selected Middle Eastern folk histories eventually written down by people who lived well after the time of Jesus, and has been selectively edited since that time. The stories originated from uneducated Iron-Age men who were likely prone to superst.itious explanations for everything in the world around them. Most of the themes, and many of the details, are clearly derived from earlier mythology in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Nevertheless, this book is being presented to you not only as fact, but as inerrant words dictated by the one supreme supernatural force in the universe (the Christian God), and someone is attempting to convince you to reorient your entire life according to it. The reader is encouraged to take that seriously, to weigh the statements in this book against research and observations on the knowable world, and to consider them in relation to the thousands of other religions from throughout history that also profess with absolute certainty to be the one “Truth.”
Why the warning? Because this book indeed has been placed here to recruit you to join and serve a specific religious group, and because religious absolutism in all of its forms has been a significant impediment to rational thought, to advances in science and medicine, to social justice, and to world peace. Despite claims of loving benevolence, Christianity has also been used to justify war, slavery, se.xism, racism, h.omophobia, mutilations, intolerance, and oppression of minorities. There are many good reasons to question religion as a force for good among humanity. Please consider these issues as you reflect upon the claims made in this book.
I am always amused when I find the Gideon Bible next to the X-rated programming schedule in the nightstand drawer.
That seems to be sending a somewhat conflicting message.
Not surprising, JC didn't mind h00kers, although I think he really preferred Simon.
I was always glad to see the bible in the room in case I ran out of rolling papers.
The pages of a Bible are nowhere near absorbent enough to fulfill that function.
A softer gentler bible, paper wise, if not prose wise. I could not agree more.
Close, in terms of priority level, but not exactly. It is for atheists to realize that public prayer is not a big of a deal, and it should not really concern them all that much! In other words, give it a rest, no one is out to get you with that!
Vic, I don't think you mean the same thing by public prayer as what it is at issue here. At work, from my window, I used to be able to see a fellow put out his prayer rug and do his afternoon prayer every day. That is harmless enough. Making a prayer part of a public institution, like a town meeting, is not that.
Over the course of commenting on the CNN Belief Blog, which I adore, I cannot help notice that people who don't believe in God are ONLY partial to Christianity! That is really sad!
You are conflating the term 'public' Vic. There is nothing wrong with a person praying in public, there is a problem having prayer as part of a gov't function FOR the public, on behalf OF the public, the gov't is then validating specific belief and therefore advocating for SPECIFIC MEMEBERS OF THE PUBLIC OVER OTHERS, which according to you is "no big deal". Since that is the case removing it would be "no big deal".
"Over the course of commenting on the CNN Belief Blog, which I adore, I cannot help notice that people who don't believe in God are ONLY partial to Christianity!"
Vic, you've probably been told this many times, but here it is AGAIN:
1. This is an American-based web site. Christianity is the dominant religion in this country. Duh, of course it's going to be highlighted.
2. This article is about Christian prayer.
3. When Muslims happen to post here, they are debated with equally (and there's even a Baha'i who posts once in a while and who garners debate).
Vic if what you just said were true, that we only have a problem with Christianity, then you are arguing if there were Islamic prayers at gov't functions, we (non-believers) would be ok with it, but that is not the case and you know it. In other words you are knowingly lying.
Should they not speak English either in those public meetings then?!
That's just strange, Vic. Some language must be chosen. No religion need be chosen.
Vic: "I cannot help notice that people who don't believe in God are ONLY partial to Christianity!"
I think that's a gross exaggeration, Vic. But look at what drove the key framers to seek for a separation of church and state. Sect feuds in their home states. Anglicans throwing Baptists in jail. Deadly persecution in New England and elsewhere. It was much more so between Christian sects as much as against non-Christians. Some of us are as much sick of being in the cross fire as much as in the line of fire.
No one here is arguing the establishment of religion, at least I am not! All what I am saying (Root Post) is the issue of public prayer is reaching an unrealistic sensitivity level while it shouldn't! Atheists are already overboard weighing on it!
Vic, Tom gave you a perfectly good explanation why we should dissect what is meant by public prayer. Did you consider it before parroting your OP?
Of course the opposing view is that mentally ill delusional believers are being incredibly *in*sensitive by insisting they be allowed to continue spouting their unfounded nonsense while others merely want to conduct their business with government in the most neutral environment possible.
Yes, no big deal, stop doing it at Government sessions. This is a secular nation – love how the good Christians of New York are showing their so called Love towards these patriots.
How about public readings from some of Dawkins's or Hitchen's books? Fair is fair, after all!
GMAB - You are wasting your time with Vic. There is a rich history of righties lying about such things so that they can be persecuted. Similar lies undergird righties' oft repeated, but usually nonsensical, claims of liberal media bias.
Would you feel the same way if Allah was prayed to at a majority of government functions? Because that could happen.
Why not keep peoples profession of faith out of gov't functions? It would harm no one as it would not show any favoritism to anyone.
Trust me, if the majority were to be of that ideology, you wouldn't even have the chance to worry about the issue of public prayer, you would have way bigger fishes to fry!
That point does not justify your position Vic, if anything it supports my point.
@Blessed – When you feel the need to interact with "Vic" always keep in mind that he is completely barking mad; he's as crazy as they come. Or to put it another way: Never try to teach a pig to sing; it will only annoy the pig and frustrate you.
Unfortunately the positions Vic takes are commen agruments, responses to him are not so much for his benefit as they are for the broader discussion. My hope is that the larger audience will see the inherent fallacy.
A case in point is a good friend of mine who is very reasonable took the position Vic started with here, that the phrase "under God" should be left alone because of its "tradition". That is until I showed him that traditionally that phrase was added much later. That is a common tactic for Christians, they shoehorn their religious position into gov't and then later claim that it has "always been that way" so it should be left alone, and many people accept that as a logical argument because they are not aware of the history.
Once upon a time many people thought slavery was a fine tradition – one worth going to war over (at least in part).
Slavery was a "tradition". Women not voting was a tradition. The traditional Pledge of Allegiance did not contain "under God". Not a valid excuse.
As Americans, would you have any problem if they were given equal time to talk about why they think "God is Dead" at the meetings?
See the problem?! You are complicating things; people could easily lose track/sight of what's important by branching off into unnecessary discussions and non-essentials! Most Christians in America who perform public prayers are innocent of the implications of those trials!
I am "complicating" things by showing that one group's vision of what life is all about should be as enti-tled to be part of official government business as another group. "All men are created equal".
Not all men are allowed to be born alive.
And some males that ARE born don't act like men at all. I give you the cowardly GOP.
Stick to the subject.
Don't complicate things with facts. People like Vic HATE those.
"public prayer is not a big of a deal"
So it should be easy to drop the prayer.
You roll your eyes simply because you have no response that addresses the post's content.
exactly. say the prayer to yourself and move on...
no need to entertain the masses with your faerie tales.
maybe I should read Dr Seuess
Why should they drop it? What is so terribly offensive to you people about believers wishing to pray? They have the right to do so. It's not as if they are praying for bad things to occur. They are praying for wisdom and peace and good health and safety. What the heck is wrong with that? Whether you believe or not, what is wrong with praying for those things? You do not have the right to deny others to pray as they see fit. No one will dictate to me when and where I am "allowed" to pray. It is not for you to decide.
Make sure you do not pray in church Sharon it might cost you some money when they pass the plate !
I accidentally hit abuse on your comment, Sharon. I apologize. I intended to hit reply.
The problem, Sharon, is that when people are in the employ of the government, they should be using their paid time to pursue the business of the government. Prayer is not government business. People are more than welcome to pray on their own time.
Sharon, a quick review of court decisions, all the way up to and including the US Supreme Court (all believers, not a single atheist ever), would show you that you are wrong about your right to exercise your beliefs whenever and however you want. But don't let the law get in your way. . .
I am opposed to any of my tax dollars going to politically sanctioned public prayer. As a tax-payer, I pay government workers to perform the work necessary to keep public services running as efficiently as possible. Prayer is not part of what I am paying for. If people wish to pray, they are free to do so on their own time.
Those public prayers, while performed at public meetings, have no bearing whatsoever on the functionality nor do they affect the decisions of the elected governments!
I don't care. I'm not paying them to pray. I'm paying them to do a job. Leave the prayer at home.
"Those public prayers, while performed at public meetings, have no bearing whatsoever on the functionality nor do they affect the decisions of the elected governments!"
Right. Totally irrelevent and unnecessary waste of time at a government function.
How do you know that? How can you be sure that elected officials are not affected when they see that pet!tioners are not of their cult?
"Totally irrelevent and unnecessary waste of time at a government function."
The waste of time is not so dire - they generally take less than a minute; and it does serve to quiet down the crowd. They could do the same thing with an "Ooooohhhhmmmmmm..." chant, however. Irrelevant, though? Yes, I agree.
As a tax payer, I am opposed to my tax money being used to feed prisoners and provide them with healthcare. That's not my problem. As a tax payer, I am opposed to my tax money being given to women who do not have enough common sense to stop having babies they cannot afford to take care of. That's not my problem either. As a tax payer, I am opposed to my tax money being sent overseas to people who hate my country. I never agreed to that. As a tax payer, I have no problem whatsoever with people praying when and where they wish. It is their right and nobody has the right to tell them otherwise.
And as a citizen and a taxpayer, you have the right to peacefully protest any of those things that bother you...
So basically, Sharon, you don't want to help people in need, are willing to imprison criminals but want them to starve, and think that babies should suffer for the sins of their parents. Basically you lack all human compassion, but you're okay with prayer on the government dime. Good to know. I bet you're Rush Limbaugh's dream date.
Because the United States is not a theocracy and should not endorse exclusively a particular Abrahamic desert deity.
Nor is the United States a Socialist nor a Communist country! The United States Of America is a FREE REPUBLIC based on "Individual Freedom."
The US Supreme Court has consistently upheld an individual's right to *believe* whatever they like but has also consistently upheld restrictions on *practicing* said beliefs. That would be the same US Supreme Court loaded 100% with delusional believers – not a single religion hating atheist in the bunch.
and that freedom means we do not have to be subjected to your forced beliefs via the GOP and their christian taliban shariah laws against women and children
Freedoms..? What about the freedoms to choose between what type of medication one should be administered..? If one has a cancerous growth, should they not be given the free will to choose their type(s) of medicine to be administered to them..? I have a tumorous growth on my neck that has been there for 5 or so years. I know that around 95% of people who go thru chemotherapy and radiation treatments wind up dying within 5 years of being treated... I have seen many videos regarding the use of "Hemp oils" as a cure all for all cancers and with no ill side effects... Do I have the free choice to choose my medication use..?
Yeah freedom unless you don't follow a particular Abrahamic desert deity that is.
Vic – the fact that you used the words Socialist nor a Communist shows that you are not intelligent enough to participate in this debate, and that you do not have any opinions worthy of serious considerations. Just step away from the keyboard and let the grownups talk. Thanks.
Sensitivity is right. They are allready offered NOT to listen in ,be excluded and WHATEVER! But thats not good enough? So if I want to pray with my co-workers before a mtg this is not ok? Ya know what....leave the room if you dont want to hear....I would not be offended one bit! But I am offended when this would be my practice.
this is not a business...
say your prayers to yourself... and what a joke not offended one bit... while all u faerie talers moc the people covering their ears
In business, whose recommendation would you (a believer) value more; another believer or a godless atheist? Be careful before you answer – your alleged god may be listening and comparing your actions to its cult's rules. . .
Atheists are not even given a shot at being President of the U.S.
Why? The majority of World sees life as more than organic blobs reacting to chemical stimuli. Accountability outside of ones self and the notion that there is a hope of something more rather than less impacts the core disposition of a man. Yes, there are some very nice atheists out there but eternal accountability is not some illusion because real or not it has been the World View since all recorded human history. Only godlessness would think running a live experiment on mankind where the world superpowers rejected God and those who believed in God.
So fred, you support discrimination based on religious beliefs, or the lack thereof? I assume you would like the following removed from the US const!tution:
"no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
There are good and bad people who are believers and non believers so no I do not discriminate. However, I like your quote because it is proof that God and not man is in control. Notice there has been a religious test for President and the constitution can do nothing about it as the Law of God is far above the Law of man. This is perhaps why all 44 presidents believed in God and acted with a world view that there is a creator.
If you choose to pray at work, you should have permission from the person who is paying you before you spend time on the clock on personal activities like prayer.
The government of the United States is secular, therefore religious activities should be off the clock and not supported by taxpayer money.
Since the room where the meeting is being held is Government property, why don't you have your prayer meeting outside and leave those who are there for Government business in the room to prepare for doing business? They have the right to be there, if you wish to do something that is NOT inclusive of all, take it outside!
Can we pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster before all meetings? FSM, blessed be His noodly appendage, makes much more logical sense than any of the other deities being considered in these comments. And Pastafarian morality is preferable to the morality preached by the religions being discussed here. Ramen.
if the religion of choice suddenly became all Islam. u would see clearly how wrong u r.
Wouldn't that still depend on where these prayers are being held? It appears to many of us that prayers are being held in places associated with government, and that only certain groups are seen enjoying this close tie to civil power. I doubt that this was what the Founding Fathers wanted.
Cool, I'm sure you won't mind listening to Islamic prayers 5 times a day.
Public prayer is fine. But prayer led by an elected representative as part of an offical civic function? That is something else all together...
I believe in things unknowable and do understand the willingness around the people's wantonness to choose freely that which they believe upon... Although the generalized conceptualizations of individualities are as predeterminations before any general assemblages, it is of fortuitous noteworthiness that any scripted generalizations made upon and for the public welfare ought not infringe upon personal decisions regarding anyone's freedoms to choose their own individualized way of living out one's Life within due considerations around socialized liberties... Choosing one's liberties should never be an abridgement declaration of pseudo-socialism...
I choose to believe in some things that are not knowable, like I believe that all gods of every religion created are non-existent outside people's minds. The difference is, my beliefs are consistent with all objective evidence available. Religious beliefs are not, they are maintained in conflict with objective evidence.
God and God's family generations are to our pervasive rationalisms; an unknowable construct of permissive profoundness... Is then objective reasoning around Godliness ideals a noteworthy ideology worthy of contemplating..? Or is being religiously objective a stance worthy of promoting in negative presumptions..?
Those are value judgments, I merely stated facts. Judgments are up to each individual.
Judgments are opinionated while facts are subjective to one's opinions...
The inability to distinguish fact from opinion is the source of many a protracted unproductive argument.
Semi-lucid opinionated facts are subjected to socialized conditionings wherefrom many individualists spawn their reasoning abilities... Since no one person nor gathering of people are aptly able to consider factual dedications around subliminal underpinnings, the courtships upon rationalizing factual dedications may well be considered a moot point... Therefore, we humanoids are subjectively organized and ranked accordingly within subjective decrees due one's generational upbringing...
Facts are subjective to opinions? You need to look up the word "facts."
Your stance upon objective reasoning resonates upon a negative profoundness that I find quite humorous...
Enjoy the laugh Lionly.
If all faiths are invited I would like to see a Voo Doo priest or a Wiccan give the prayer and see the reaction.
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