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May 5th, 2014
04:23 PM ET

After Supreme Court ruling, do religious minorities have a prayer?

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - If you don't like it, leave the room.

That's Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's advice for atheists and others who object to sectarian prayers before government meetings.

In a 5-4 decision written by Kennedy, the Supreme Court allowed Greece, New York, to continue hosting prayers before its monthly town board meetings - even though an atheist and a Jewish citizen complained that the benedictions are almost always explicitly Christian.

Many members of the country's majority faith - that is, Christians - hailed the ruling.

Many members of minority faiths, as well as atheists, responded with palpable anger, saying the Supreme Court has set them apart as second-class citizens.

Groups from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to the Hindu American Foundation decried Monday's decision.

"The court’s decision to bless ‘majority-rules’ prayer is out of step with the changing face of America, which is more secular and less dogmatic,” said Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which litigated the case.

At least one justice, Elena Kagan, seemed to agree. And while Kennedy's decision reads like a lesson in American history, Kagan's dissent offers a picture of the country's increasingly pluralistic present.

American politicians have prayed before public gatherings since the Founding Fathers crowded into a stuffy Philadelphia room to crank out the Constitution, Kennedy writes.

The inaugural and "emphatically Christian" prayer at the First Continental Congress was delivered by an Anglican minister, who overcame objections from the assembled Quakers, Anabaptists and Presbyterians.

The prayer united the mostly Christian Founding Fathers, and the rest is history, Kennedy writes.

So, the justice suggests, as long prayers at public meetings don't fall into a pattern of proselytizing, denigrating nonbelievers or threatening damnation, what's the problem?

According to a recent poll, the vast majority of Americans share Kennedy's view.

Less than 23% of Americans told pollsters at Fairleigh Dickinson University that they dislike prayers at public government meetings.

“This has always been a praying nation, despite its very secular Constitution,” said Peter J. Woolley, professor of comparative politics at Fairleigh Dickinson in Hackensack, New Jersey.

“People generally see generic prayer as harmless, if not uplifting, not as something that is oppressive.”

But what about people who like their local government meetings to be religion-free?

"Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy," Kennedy writes.

Kagan, writing for the dissenting minority, sharply disagreed.

She suggested that the five justices who formed the majority - all of whom are Catholic - don't understand what it's like to belong to a minority faith in America.

The Supreme Court's Catholic majority seems to think that, because many prayers before government meetings take on a ceremonial aspect, the actual content of the prayers doesn't matter, Kagan continues.

In essence, she said, the majority is making light of religious differences while conferring a special role on Christianity.

"Contrary to the majority's apparent view, such sectarian prayers are not 'part of our expressive idiom' or 'part of our heritage and tradition,' assuming that 'our' refers to all Americans. They express beliefs that are fundamental to some, foreign to others - and because of that they carry the ever-present potential to divide and exclude."

To illustrate her point, Kagan, who is Jewish, raises a hypothetical scenario.

Let's say there's a Muslim resident of Greece, New York, who appears before the town board to share her policy views or request a permit.

Just before the Muslim woman makes her argument, a minister "deputized by the town" asks the room to pray in the name of "God's only son Jesus Christ."

With less than a dozen people the room, every action is noticed.

So, the Muslim woman has two choices, Kagan argues: 1) Go along with the majority and pray, despite her religious objections, or 2) Risk causing some kind of disturbance or public disagreement with the very people she is trying to persuade.

"And thus she stands at a remove, based solely on religion, from her fellow citizens and her elected representatives," Kagan writes.

Kagan did not suggest that the Supreme Court's majority (Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) voted to uphold sectarian prayer because they are members of the country's largest church, Roman Catholicism.

But Ronald Lindsay of the Center for Inquiry, a Humanist group, called it "striking and sad" that "five of the six Christian justices on the Supreme Court formed the majority." (Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is Catholic, voted with Kagan.)

"With a Supreme Court that appears hostile to the rights of religious minorities, those of us who believe in a secular government must redouble our legal and advocacy efforts,” Lindsay said.

Of course, there's a great gap between being Catholic and using the gavel to promote Christianity.

But a new study conducted by scholars at the University of Southern California offers intriguing insights into how the justices have voted on First Amendment issues.

The upshot: The conservative justices tend to side with conservative causes; the liberals with liberal ones.

"Supreme Court Justices are opportunistic supporters of the First Amendment," write the scholars.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Courts • Discrimination • Interfaith issues • Prejudice • Religious liberty

soundoff (2,070 Responses)
  1. pbernasc

    bad habits are hard to die off .. but in the end they will be replaced with healthy behavior, regardless of what an old group of grumpy men might try to do to hold to obsolete traditions.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:20 am |
    • tsnorris1965

      Does "healthy behavior" include teaching that anal se.x is "normal" ???

      May 6, 2014 at 12:25 am |
      • observer

        tsnorris1965,

        Why not ask the MILLIONS of Christian heteroes who engage in anal s3x?

        May 6, 2014 at 12:26 am |
      • ssq41

        You know, snore, your hom.ophobia only contributes itself to more suffering here in Samsara

        May 6, 2014 at 12:32 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          What is H. Phobic about pointing out a behavior that is unhealthy physically and frowned upon morally by every major religion???

          May 6, 2014 at 12:54 am |
        • ssq41

          Well...you might have picked, say, smoking...

          May 6, 2014 at 12:58 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          Last time I checked, smoking was not a hot button court issue.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:04 am |
        • Doris

          So the courts are all tied up with anal sex cases? Wow – what channel is this on and what time?

          May 6, 2014 at 1:06 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Genocide is unhealthy...but it is not frowned upon in all cases by every major religion...so that must make is ok...right?

          May 6, 2014 at 1:06 am |
        • observer

          tsnorris1965,

          Morals are changing. Education is reducing bigotry. Discrimination is decreasing.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:07 am |
        • ssq41

          An.al s.ex has? Your dishonesty continues....clearly, we'll be seeing you for many lives to come.

          I've begun to practice letting flies out of my house instead of killing them....seems I'll be well prepared when I encounter you.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:09 am |
      • halfdime1

        "Does "healthy behavior" include teaching that anal se.x is "normal" ???"

        I detect a hint of self loathing.

        May 6, 2014 at 3:28 am |
      • pbernasc

        What makes you think your personal obsessions are healthy?

        May 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
    • i12bphil

      The true sickness dwells in you...

      May 6, 2014 at 1:11 am |
      • ssq41

        Oh, phil...whatever happened to the healing power of the blood of Jesus?

        May 6, 2014 at 1:27 am |
      • pbernasc

        the devil would say that

        May 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
  2. ssq41

    It's always fun to hear a "buddhist" such as tsnorris claim there is such a thing as "objective" morality when his scriptures say things like:

    Body is nothing more than emptiness,
    emptiness is nothing more than body.
    The body is exactly empty,
    and emptiness is exactly body.
    The other four aspects of human existence -
    feeling, thought, will, and consciousness -
    are likewise nothing more than emptiness,
    and emptiness nothing more than they.

    All things are empty:
    Nothing is born, nothing dies,
    nothing is pure, nothing is stained,
    nothing increases and nothing decreases.

    So, in emptiness, there is no body,
    no feeling, no thought,
    no will, no consciousness.
    There are no eyes, no ears,
    no nose, no tongue,
    no body, no mind.
    There is no seeing, no hearing,
    no smelling, no tasting,
    no touching, no imagining.
    There is nothing seen, nor heard,
    nor smelled, nor tasted,
    nor touched, nor imagined.

    There is no ignorance,
    and no end to ignorance.
    There is no old age and death,
    and no end to old age and death.
    There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
    no end to suffering, no path to follow.
    There is no attainment of wisdom,
    and no wisdom to attain.

    –From the Heart Sutra

    So, it seems the buddhist can't make up his or her mind...no, wait...the buddhist has No Mind....

    Hmmmm, so, SNOR....what is the divine origin of your morality?

    May 6, 2014 at 12:17 am |
    • tsnorris1965

      The objective source of my morality is emptiness and non-attachment.
      You can spit on the image of the Buddha if you wish.
      You spit.
      I bow.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:27 am |
      • ssq41

        Both are subjective....how foolish of you. And killing the Buddha comes highly recommended.

        May 6, 2014 at 12:33 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          LOL...the Dharma is subjective...yet not...if you see the Buddha on the Road, you are welcome to kill him.
          Yet, I will choose to venerate him.
          You spits.
          I bow.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:36 am |
        • ssq41

          Clearly, you don't even understand the basic tennants of your chosen religion.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:40 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          Really??? Please, explain Buddhism to me...

          May 6, 2014 at 12:49 am |
        • ssq41

          Pass the salt, please.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:55 am |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        "The objective source of MY morality"

        LOL

        May 6, 2014 at 12:34 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          I choose the Dharma, which is though ultimately empty, yet carries the germ of Nirvana, that which is beyond subject/object. There is no contradiction. I exist. I am ultimately transient, but I exist. And choose.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:40 am |
        • ssq41

          So many "I's" ....so little objectivity

          May 6, 2014 at 12:41 am |
        • observer

          tsnorris1965

          "I exist. And choose."

          Yep. Morality is subjective.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:42 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          Mao Zedong found it very easy to murder millions of people. He was an atheist, you see.
          The Dali Lama would not find it easy to murder millions of people. He is a Buddhist you see.
          And yet, the Dali Lama would be the first to tell you that the Dharma is ultimately empty...

          May 6, 2014 at 12:47 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Choosing a moral system that was produced by other humans does not make it "objective".

          May 6, 2014 at 12:52 am |
        • observer

          tsnorris1965

          When Mao Zedong got done, there were FAR FAR MORE people remaining than the EIGHT that the Bible says God left.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:56 am |
    • halfdime1

      I find the argument of objective vs subjective morality less important that the actions of rational agents themselves. Ethics, morals and values is a very complicated topic. They are fascinating topics that are not always so clear cut. We have to gauge situations in which actions occur individualy, we have to determined motives and outcomes. But in the end the individual life of a rational person should be spent living as well a meaning of a life as is possible.

      As Jim Jeffries says "Try not to be c-unt"

      May 6, 2014 at 3:34 am |
      • redzoa

        I might have worded the advice differently; but good advice is good advice . . .

        May 6, 2014 at 4:36 am |
  3. Dalahäst

    A few things Jesus said are pretty relevant here:

    –"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.…–

    May 6, 2014 at 12:16 am |
    • realbuckyball

      All the sayings in the gospels were placed in Jesus' mouth as literary devices. In a day with no papers, no writing for almost everyone, no recording devices of any kind, it's simply not reasonable to think that 30 – 100 years later anyone coud actually remember anything he said. It's all made up. The gospels are in the literary form of ancient myths. Carrier has demonstrated that.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:23 am |
      • Dalahäst

        There was paper and writing devices. Matthew was a tax collector, he had to keep track of names and money.

        30 to 100 years later you could remember the story, especially if you kept talking about it. That could be done in teaching other and by talking with the other witnesses.

        Some Jews were trained to memorize texts. Like 30 to 100 pages worth of words.

        There are some people that have photographic-like memory. They can remember entire conversations from 30 years ago.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:16 am |
        • observer

          Dalahäst,

          How about Jesus? Where are his writings?

          May 6, 2014 at 1:18 am |
        • Dalahäst

          I think the only time he wrote was in the sand, right before he stopped the woman from being stoned to death.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:21 am |
        • ssq41

          Dala, remember, Matthew had a cerebral aneurysm...

          May 6, 2014 at 1:19 am |
    • memezaa

      Great post. The only way to convince some people is to use their own religion to make them think about things in a different light. Spewing mindless rhetoric like "realbuckyball" just makes people hold onto their beilefs harder. I'm an atheist myself but find religion an interesting topic to study.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:52 am |
      • Dalahäst

        Thanks for sharing that.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:04 am |
  4. Doris

    tsnorris1965: "It is obvious the Atheist cannot believe in objective morality. Therefore, if he is moral at all, he is so in a subjective sense. But since subjective morality has no ultimate validity except insofar as chosen by the "believer", it has no real meaning except on a personal and chosen level. There is ultimately nothing morally wrong with BBQ'ing your grandmother and eating her."

    Same BS that "truthfollower" pulls all the time. Feigning a discussion about objective vs. subjective morality without qualifying values in the example in an attempt to get the casual reader to focus on the value the crafty writer wants you to adopt a an absolute truth – in this case how bad it would be to BBQ your grandmother, so that he can claim the the reader believes in objective "truths".

    It's not a matter of atheists not being able to believe in objective morality, it's a matter of not accepting what's been presented so far as evidence for the existence of objective morality.

    Prove that objective morality exists without resorting to subjective means. Can you do that? You know – demonstrate either your God or your direct connection to his "truths" without letting subjectivity enter the picture? We wouldn't want subjectivity tainting your demonstration of your direct connection to your god.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:07 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Exactly Doris, well put.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:11 am |
    • Doris

      @tnorris1965: Also – prove that you do not just have a similar opinion that you have derived in the same subjective manner as atheists, only from something that only represents a claimed unsubstantiated source. Without your proof, we can only assume that you, and groups with which you have affinity in addressing moral issues, whether those groups be churches, people with the same interpretation of the Bible, governments (a theocracy, for instance), also do so subjectively.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:11 am |
    • tsnorris1965

      Someone who choses to believe in an objective value system based on revealed divine "truth" is under no obligation to prove anything to anyone. That system is the province of faith, whether that faith be Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, etc...

      May 6, 2014 at 12:32 am |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        "That system is the province of faith, whether that faith be Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, etc..."

        Which makes it subjective...until you can objectively demonstrate it otherwise.

        May 6, 2014 at 12:37 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          The decision is subjective. The canon is objective.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:41 am |
        • ssq41

          "The 'cannon' is objective."?? You really just said that, snore?

          May 6, 2014 at 12:43 am |
      • observer

        tsnorris1965,

        If you are like probably EVERY Christian, you don't believe EVERYTHING that your faith presents you.

        So do you have ANY point at all?

        May 6, 2014 at 12:38 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          The New Testament, just for an example, is a collection of 27 separate books...it is not A book, but a small library of books.
          So you will have to clarify exactly what exactly you mean....

          May 6, 2014 at 12:43 am |
        • ssq41

          Not only a poor historian, snore....you have no understanding of religion...Christianity or yours (though I doubt you actually are a buddhist).

          May 6, 2014 at 12:46 am |
        • observer

          tsnorris1965,

          Try again. Real Christians believe in ONE BOOK.

          Pitiful response.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:47 am |
      • Doris

        tnorris1965: "Someone who choses to believe in an objective value system based on revealed divine "truth" is under no obligation to prove anything to anyone. That system is the province of faith, whether that faith be Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, etc..."

        Oh please don't misunderstand me, ts. I'm not suggesting that you are obligated to do anything. But I do hope you realize you're putting the cart before the horses in making generalized statements about atheists as if they are facts when you haven't presented anything as evidence for your notions. Notions that include "ultimate validity" for instance.

        May 6, 2014 at 12:49 am |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        "Someone who choses to believe in an objective value system based on revealed divine "truth" is under no obligation to prove anything to anyone."

        So you can just assert your morality is objective...nothing dangerous about that position...or objective for that matter.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:11 am |
  5. Reality

    Easy does it out there. The SCOTUS, Congress, state legislatures and probably most If not all regulating bodies start their meetings with some form of prayer. So how could the SCOTUS rule otherwise since in the past they have approved all of these. IMO, a harmless tradition that causes no harm.

    May 5, 2014 at 11:48 pm |
    • Reality

      Oops, scratch the redundant "that causes no harm"

      May 5, 2014 at 11:52 pm |
  6. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    I don't have any problem as an atheist attending functions that have prayer or a religious aspect to them. I am not offended. The difference is the gov't is to be nuetral as to the issue of religion. And this ruling contradicts that position.

    There will be a majority Muslim municipality at some point in the future. Anyone who supports the qov't opening functions with Christian prayer needs to ask themselves if they would feel the same way when a local qov't starts opening sessions with praises to Allah and how comfortable as a CHristian would you feel bringing issues to such a proceeding. This ruling will cut both ways...mark my words..

    May 5, 2014 at 11:39 pm |
    • bostontola

      I agree, and it may be one Christian sect offending another.

      May 5, 2014 at 11:41 pm |
      • tsnorris1965

        Actually, protection of one Christian group from other Christian groups was the basis for the idea of separation of church and state. It works, works well and will continue to do so, even when other religions are brought into the mix.

        May 5, 2014 at 11:44 pm |
        • bostontola

          Obviously, that was the point.

          May 5, 2014 at 11:46 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          It does work well, my point is it works best when religious observances are not present at qov't functions, period.

          May 5, 2014 at 11:57 pm |
  7. bostontola

    I doubt this ruling will change much with respect to how anyone lives. I do think future historians will speak very poorly of this court.

    May 5, 2014 at 11:37 pm |
  8. tsnorris1965

    Isn't it interesting how angry the militant atheist crowd becomes when a ruling goes against their "beliefs" ???

    May 5, 2014 at 11:32 pm |
    • observer

      tsnorris1965

      Isn't it interesting how angry the militant Christian crowd becomes when a ruling goes against their "beliefs" like for gay rights and abortion???

      May 5, 2014 at 11:35 pm |
      • tsnorris1965

        I don't like the militant Christian anymore than I like the militant Atheist or militant Muslim.

        May 5, 2014 at 11:37 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          I sometimes get extremist religious folks and extremist anti-religious folks mixed up. Some atheists and religious fundamentalists have a lot in common.

          May 5, 2014 at 11:39 pm |
        • bostontola

          Reading your generalizations below, I doubt you tolerate many atheists or find many Christians 'militant'.

          May 5, 2014 at 11:40 pm |
      • Alias

        Anger is the normal reaction when injustice has been done.

        May 5, 2014 at 11:37 pm |
        • tsnorris1965

          In the context of the US legal system, the SCOTUS defines what is "justice" and what is not.
          Or is your definition of "justice" based on some sort of "higher principle" ???

          May 5, 2014 at 11:39 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          The SCOTUS does not determine what is "just", it determines what is "Consti.tutional" and those are not always the same thing.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:01 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          @cheese: So you believe "justice" is something other than "legal"...sound fascinating...please elucidate on the concrete existential foundations of "justice"...

          May 6, 2014 at 12:10 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          I did not take the postions that "Justice" is concrete. Justice is subjective. My point is the SCOTUS does not attempt to determine what is "Just" in the cases they hear. The determine what is "Consti.tional" and they are not the same thing....are you arguing they are?

          May 6, 2014 at 12:21 am |
        • ssq41

          snore, are you so inept that you don't know the difference between "justice" and a legal system? If Texas had its own legal system, do you think blacks and Hispanics would be treated justly?

          I'm going to guess, "Yes"...despite your claim to being a buddhist...perphaps you should work on your Bodhisattva merit badge a little harder.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:26 am |
  9. atheisticallyyours

    The pathetic Supreme Court majority has PROVED AND ENDORSED the obscene, myopic, PATHETIC INSECURITY of those who have to have a STUPID, WORTHLESS, and beyond time-wasting ritual before any governmental meeting! I wonder if they would endorse the FREE SPEECH of having a SIGN at these meetings that state: END THIS TIME WASTING, NONSENSE RITUAL, AND GET ON WITH DOING THE (NAME OF GOVERNING BODY'S) BUSINESS!

    May 5, 2014 at 11:28 pm |
    • tsnorris1965

      Lots of pejorative invective there, bucko.
      Typical for an atheist. Why so angry? You don't have to pray? Since nothing ultimately matters anyway, why the outrage???

      May 5, 2014 at 11:35 pm |
  10. livingdoc

    The religious nutjobs that run this country will eventually lose their ways and these issues will be a thing of the past within a decade or two. Thankfully the young generations are distancing themselves from the stupidity and absurdity of religion. Just like minority and gay rights, freedom from religion will be a reality in the not so distant future.

    May 5, 2014 at 11:12 pm |
  11. auntiekale

    Christians are often nice people.
    It's Christianity and all the self interested delusional deity-fearing fantasies that is so utterly foul.

    May 5, 2014 at 11:12 pm |
  12. auntiekale

    It's fascinating how many Christians don't think that their beliefs are offensive. Telling me (or insinuating) that I am going to burn for quadrillions of years in torture in a fiery pit after I die is a disgusting thing, irregardless that it is fiction.

    May 5, 2014 at 11:10 pm |
    • Dalahäst

      Most Christians tell me they die. Just like everyone else.

      "The wages of sin are death," they have told me. Not that you are going to burn for quadrillions of years in torture in a fiery pit after I die.

      Hell is a place where God will destroy evil. Not burn it for quadrillions of years in torture. Destroy it. Dead.

      If you are not evil, don't worry.

      May 5, 2014 at 11:32 pm |
      • livingdoc

        Oh, but since he hasn't accepted God his name won't be written in the Book of Life, and therefore according to Revelation 20:15 "and if anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”. Your bible studies and Sunday school are failing you a bit there. You're welcome!

        May 6, 2014 at 12:02 am |
        • Dalahäst

          That doesn't contradict what I said.

          The fire kills the person. It is not torture for a gazillion years.

          What the fire is destroying is death. It wasn't created for humans.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:13 am |
      • livingdoc

        Oh but it is torture for gazillion years:

        Revelation 20:10 says it is a place of torment for ever and ever!

        How does any of this doesn't sound offensive, divisive, threatening etc, which what the poster was saying. You lose. Not even divine power can save you from the nonsense spewed in religious books such as the Bible that were created by humans (e.g Constantine the Great)

        May 6, 2014 at 12:22 am |
        • Dalahäst

          That is the only verse that speaks of eternal torment.

          And it was a dream,

          It also states the Jesus has a sword for a tongue. But that doesn't literally mean he has a sword for a tongue – it means his weapon is his words.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:49 am |
      • realbuckyball

        And you know this how ?
        Nice story. Needs some zombies and dragons though.

        May 6, 2014 at 12:24 am |
  13. tsnorris1965

    Since the atheist does not believe in "right" or "wrong" but that morality is simply the product of culture and genetics-It is fascinating to see how angry they become at rulings like this...almost as if they believed the ruling "wrong" or something...

    May 5, 2014 at 11:10 pm |
    • auntiekale

      Wrong. Back to class diamond vehicle worshiper.

      May 5, 2014 at 11:13 pm |
    • livingdoc

      Atheists never started a war on another country or civilization based on their perceived beliefs or right or wrong.

      May 5, 2014 at 11:14 pm |
      • tsnorris1965

        LOL..Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Slobodan Milošević, NICOLAE CEAUSESCU...I could go on and on...

        May 5, 2014 at 11:59 pm |
        • livingdoc

          They were dictators and not all of them atheist by the way, but did any of them start a war in the name of atheism like the crusaders or the ottoman turks?!

          May 6, 2014 at 12:09 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          Actually yes...Atheism is an indispensable component of Marxism...Stalin's atheism was the driving force behind many of his atrocities...ditto Mao...just ask the Tibetan Buddhists.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:16 am |
        • ssq41

          So Stalin removed his Flag Officers from the Navy and Army because of their religious beliefs?

          May 6, 2014 at 12:21 am |
      • ssq41

        And, snore, since you think of yourself as a great historian, please remind us which "war" Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot started in the name of Atheism?

        May 6, 2014 at 12:23 am |
    • observer

      tsnorris1965,

      Fortunately, our laws are NOT BASED on the Bible. Most Christians wouldn't want us to follow MANY of God's "morals" from the Bible. Read one?

      May 5, 2014 at 11:15 pm |
      • Alias

        They used to be.
        Back in the good ol' days when you could kill your neighbor For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and buy someone to dig the grave so you didn't have to.

        May 5, 2014 at 11:23 pm |
    • Doris

      If you're discussing objective morality versus subjective morality, then why not be honest and straightforward when you use the terms "right" and "wrong". Let me fix your statement so that your terms do not hide what you really mean:

      "Since the atheist does not believe in objective "right" or "wrong" (received divinely) but that morality is simply the product of culture and genetics-It is fascinating to see how angry they become at rulings like this...almost as if they believed the ruling objectively "wrong" (divinely received) or something..."

      There – now see how stupid that is?

      No, an atheist can be angry if they feel something goes against current law and none of it has to involve any deity.

      May 5, 2014 at 11:22 pm |
      • tsnorris1965

        The dictums of the Supreme Court ARE CURRENT LAW.
        The Supreme Court is the "decider" ...LOL...of what is legal and what in not...
        It almost sounds as if you are angry because the decision conflicts with your "beliefs"...

        May 5, 2014 at 11:28 pm |
        • Doris

          "The dictums of the Supreme Court ARE CURRENT LAW."

          I did not say they were not.

          Now then, if you are claiming an atheist does not believe in right or wrong, what kind of right and wrong do you mean? You already started delineating objective versus subjective morality with your claim of what atheists think morality is a a product of. So what kind of right and wrong are you claiming that atheists don't believe in – objective or subjective? As I pointed out in my reply, I think you'll find your OP foolish if you reveal what you intend there and I suspect that's why you generalized the terms.

          May 5, 2014 at 11:38 pm |
        • tsnorris1965

          It is obvious the Atheist cannot believe in objective morality. Therefore, if he is moral at all, he is so in a subjective sense. But since subjective morality has no ultimate validity except insofar as chosen by the "believer", it has no real meaning except on a personal and chosen level. There is ultimately nothing morally wrong with BBQ'ing your grandmother and eating her.

          May 5, 2014 at 11:50 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Norris....personally, I will take my form of morality over any so-called morality that any religious people claim. The Crusades, slavery, the religious conflicts in Ireland, etc. When is the last time you ever heard of a group of atheists getting together to start a war or bother anybody about anything? The answer to that is never, by the way.

          May 5, 2014 at 11:58 pm |
        • observer

          tsnorris1965,

          Nonsense. Where do Christians get the "morals" that convince them that the Bible is WRONG about such things as slavery and numerous discriminations?

          May 5, 2014 at 11:55 pm |
        • tsnorris1965

          LOL..Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Slobodan Milošević, NICOLAE CEAUSESCU...Atheists all...Just add up the deaths caused by Stalin and Chairman Mao...they dwarf the totals of the crusades and the inquisition and even the Spanish conquest of the New World...which had much more to do with gold than religion...but we will let it slide...

          May 6, 2014 at 12:05 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          Where is the Bible does it say that slavery is "right" or "wrong"???
          Ditto "discrimination"....whatever you mean by that quite nebulous term...

          May 6, 2014 at 12:07 am |
        • observer

          tsnorris1965,

          The Bible says that when God got done with his killing spree, there were only EIGHT PEOPLE left on the face of the earth.

          No atheist ever came REMOTELY REMOTELY close to that.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:07 am |
        • tsnorris1965

          If you actually take the mythology of the Pentateuch literally, I can't help you.
          That being said, just because something is myth, doesn't make it untrue...

          May 6, 2014 at 12:13 am |
        • observer

          tsnorris1965

          Where is the Bible does it say that slavery is "right" or "wrong"???

          The Bible tells you where you can buy slaves. It tells who you can buy. It tells how much you can hurt them without punishment. It tells you about rules for WHEN you SELL your daughter.

          It discriminates against women who aren't allowed to talk in church, for instance. It obviously discriminates against gays. It even discriminates against the handicapped who God doesn't want as priests in his church.

          Why not read a Bible someday?

          May 6, 2014 at 12:15 am |
      • tsnorris1965

        Thanks for attempting to put words in my mouth, but that is NOT what I said...

        May 5, 2014 at 11:29 pm |
        • observer

          tsnorris1965,

          It's good to hear a believer who supports the Supreme Court after decisions have been in support of gay rights and abortions.

          May 5, 2014 at 11:31 pm |
    • Alias

      I don’t know if faith can move a mountain, but I’ve seen what it can do to a skyscraper.
      Please keep your religion out of my government.

      May 5, 2014 at 11:31 pm |
  14. dustieryder111

    anyone see Maddie lately?

    May 5, 2014 at 11:08 pm |
  15. realbuckyball

    Kennedy is an old old Catholic man. These old fossils will die off soon, and the emerging non-sectarian nature of society will toss his ancient cult informed ruling. Change is slow. 75 years ago Madelyn Murray O'Hare was a parriah. Now atheism is an accepted stance. The establishment clause of the consti'tutiion clearly forbids prayers to one deity. Do Muslims get asked to pray to Allah ? Kennedy knows full well it's HIS god, so he is tone deaf. If it was a prayer to Baal, he would toss it out. The supreme court once said slavery was ok too. These old farts can't be gone too soon.

    May 5, 2014 at 10:55 pm |
  16. tavuka2

    christian prayer.. will be returned to public schools... then the chitz wil hit the fan..

    May 5, 2014 at 10:52 pm |
  17. livingdoc

    I'm an atheist. I don't get hung up on prayer, God, Christianity etc. I've come to accept the fact religious beliefs are engrained into people's DNA like an ignorant gene. You can't fix it, why fight it? Christians, Jews, Muslims etc are some of the most intolerant people on Earth. You're either with them or against them. They will even justify killing each other in direct contradiction with their "beliefs". I don't try to fight stupidity, because you can't fix stupid. I actually embrace it, because as long as they're preoccupied with hate and stupidity I prosper and spend my time in what's most important to me: living life.

    I don't need an imaginary friend to justify my existence. I don't have to look for an afterlife to be OK with mediocrity in this World like they do. Ironic how Supreme Court justices represent the Catholic faith. Funny how catholics put their faith in the hands of rapists. The same church that allied with the Nazis. The same church that does the bidding of the 1% in America.

    Ironic how people get worked up when the Los Angeles Clipper's owner doesn't want his girlfriend to associate with black people, but don't have a problem discriminating against anyone who is not Christian, or don't care that the founding fathers were some of the most racist people on Earth and actually owned slaves.

    May 5, 2014 at 10:45 pm |
    • mkhardt

      The SCOTUS voted to let prayer start public government meeting with a prayer. Let us be free... as long as you are religious... I mean, let's be realistic. By religious they mean Christian. Of course, they used selective history to defend there declaration that we are a Christian nation. Forgetting that the unified church and state is a major reason that we declared independence. The history of the USA is full of reasons why church and state is a volatile mix. So now I am witness to history repeating itself. Seems like there is a saying about that. Doomed to repeat it if I recall.

      "So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause." ―Padmé Amidala

      May 5, 2014 at 10:49 pm |
      • livingdoc

        The bigger picture is not religion or alienation of religious minorities or even discrimination. It's the notion of divide and conquer, a notion as old as humanity. Do you think those old geezers in the Supreme Court care about religion?! They're just doing Goldman Sachs, Walmart, Exxon, Haliburton and others bidding. While the simpletons get bogged down fighting each other, they're raping this country for their own profits.

        May 5, 2014 at 10:55 pm |
      • realbuckyball

        As soon as Muslims demand a turn at prayer, it will stop fast.

        May 5, 2014 at 10:56 pm |
    • Dalahäst

      Some atheists are just as intolerant. Maybe they share that "ignorant gene".

      "Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional "opium of the people"—cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims." Albert Einstein

      May 5, 2014 at 11:03 pm |
      • livingdoc

        Yes, there are atheists that are intolerant because they are victims of intolerance. They're being asked to conform to and accept what the majority dictates. It's like slavery and discrimination of black people. Perhaps not physically, but it is an oppression of the mind and insult to their intelligence. We use science in our daily lives and actual scientific proof for almost everything we do in life, but we accept an imaginary friend such as God as the absolute truth and want to make everyone eat that junk like it's the universal truth.

        May 5, 2014 at 11:08 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Religious people often claim they are being persecuted in the same manner you describe. Looks like some atheists also do that.

          There is nothing in atheism that has anything inherently to do with science. It just means you don't believe in God. Some atheists do not like science that much.

          And there are religious people that are masters of the science that you use everyday. They earn prestigious recognition, like Nobel Prizes in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics.

          If you decided to become a scientist, you probably will have a Christian teaching you at some point.

          I'm sure you also know that something like 10% of atheists claim they belong to a religion (Buddhism, Secular Humanism, Church of Atheism)

          May 5, 2014 at 11:20 pm |
  18. darkadams00

    If the vitriol in these comments were gasoline, we'd have a multi-state firestorm on our hands. This issue has appeared in different areas around the country in the past 2-3 years, and I still don't understand the hatred and negativity that surround the topic. If I attend a social function (public or non-public) and a prayer is offered, I am not offended, regardless of the underlying beliefs of the person praying. I would not hesitate to go to a wedding, funeral, graduation, retirement party, baby shower, ballgame, courtroom, birthday party, family reunion, public hearing, town parade, school play, or other social function due to the presence or lack of a 1-2 minute prayer from a pastor, priest, rabbi, imam, valedictorian, mayor, police chief, council member, or 3rd grader who will play the Tree in the school spring play, nor would I feel it appropriate or necessary to make a social scene just so everyone could hear my opinion on the matter. I have one vote at the ballot box. My vote has been ill-represented on more than one occasion, but I still welcome the opportunity to vote. In an assembly over which I don't preside, I simply understand that the absence of a prayer when I would have prayed or the words of a prayer different from mine infringes on me in no way. Individuals who want the strictest definition of the separation of church and state will have difficulty eliminating local traditions established over four hundred years of American history. People who want to restrict religious speech in the public arena to a single belief system will also have a hard go of it given the patchwork quilt that make up this nation's religious, political, and cultural backdrop. Neither extreme is appealing. Exiling prayer, even in the historical sense that one might associate with the public use of the Pledge and the National Anthem, because citizen leaders can't decide on who should pray or what to pray is a monumental loss of culture and heritage, and to some folks, morality.

    I enjoy spirited debate and discussion, but religious topics continue to bring out the worst in the comments section. Both sides have merit and can be argued with historical quotes and anecdotes. Red herrings and straw man arguments are everywhere. With such powerful and emotional interests, we should always remember that tolerance and goodwill are not only needed by the ones on the other side.

    May 5, 2014 at 10:36 pm |
    • Madtown

      That's the problem with religion, everyone thinks the variation they follow is the "correct" one. Since none have any objectivity backing them, they're all essentially opinions. It's human nature to want to be right, and it just descends from there.

      May 5, 2014 at 10:40 pm |
    • livingdoc

      The hatred you mention is caused by religious beliefs people have. Religion by doctrine is divisive and discriminatory. I'm better than you because my God is better than yours. You need to convert to my religion if you want to go to heaven. If you don't convert to my religion you need to pay a tax or I'll kill you. How many wars have been fueled by religion? A lot!

      May 5, 2014 at 11:03 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I don't have any problem as an atheist attending functions that have prayer or a religious aspect to them. I am not offended. The difference is the gov't is to be nuetral as to the issue of religion. And this ruling contradicts that position.

      There will be a majority Muslim municipality at some point in the future. Anyone who supports the qov't opening functions with Christian prayer needs to ask themselves if they would feel the same way when a local qov't starts opening sessions with praises to Allah and how comfortable as a CHristian would you feel bringing issues to such a proceeding. This ruling will cut both ways...mark my words.

      May 5, 2014 at 11:37 pm |
      • livingdoc

        Don't worry Christians will make sure that the FBI keeps harassing them so they don't attempt to get involved in civic functions.

        May 5, 2014 at 11:43 pm |
  19. RichardSRussell

    These are the same 5 justices who foisted Citizens United and McCutcheon on us. Yay for the powerful. Yay for the rich. Yay for the majority. What's that you say? You're an average, poor, minority type? Screw you, then, buddy.

    May 5, 2014 at 10:33 pm |
  20. grandeclectus

    This is disgusting. We are well on our way to becoming a theocracy. Very frightening. Try some Buddhist chants and a Wiccan ritual and see how they squeal like pigs. Keep your dark age delusional crap to yourselves.

    May 5, 2014 at 10:32 pm |
    • livingdoc

      It will never happen as long as Catholics like to have intercourse with boys and whack themselves to gay p o r n.

      May 5, 2014 at 11:17 pm |
    • i12bphil

      Oh, yay. More straw man arguments by people who see a threat where none exists. Fear monger much?

      May 6, 2014 at 1:19 am |
      • ssq41

        Oh, phil...perhaps you should review your history...remember "prayer in schools"....You were the original "fear mongerer."

        But when one's walk with the Lord is based purely on fear....

        May 6, 2014 at 1:25 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.