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Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court
November 1st, 2013
04:39 PM ET

Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court

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.

Felt marginalized

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."

Different rulings

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Courts

soundoff (6,237 Responses)
  1. Andyourpoint is?

    Bottom line – government buildings are built and maintained by taxes paid by ALL PEOPLE. Policies, issues and legislation that is discussed or decided upon in these buildings potentially affects ALL PEOPLE, believers, non-believers, gay, straight etc. Beginning the meetings with a prayer of any kind implies that only the opinions of believers are welcome. Why can't we just call the meeting to order, review the agenda and get on with it?

    November 3, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      It's really that simple. Just call the meeting to order without addressing anyone's religious needs.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:28 am |
      • BigBankTheory

        No way, that would take all the fun out of watching the stupid people!

        November 3, 2013 at 8:30 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          If that's how you get your kicks, you may want to check your moral compass – I suspect it's off. What does that say about you? What does that say about your superior morality?

          November 3, 2013 at 8:34 am |
        • Enough

          @Youtube – Neil DeGrasse Tyson – The Perimeter of Ignorance

          I agree with you.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:05 am |
      • Sara

        That assumes that these people are just too stupid to realize that what they're doing is a problem. They aren't. They know full well that they are causing offense, using taxpayer money, and wasting people's time. They don't care. For them this is a way of spreading their religion, and they have to play dumb to keep it going. Stop trying to explain it to people...they're just putting you on with the ignorance act.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • caesarbc

      There are men who have full-on relationships with balloons out there..... balloons....

      you can't please everyone, because someone is bound to be offended out there.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:32 am |
      • .

        Tip, fill them up with helium and it actually feels like they are pushing back. Your welcome.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • justageek

      If it is for ALL people then what about the tax paying non English speaking citizens? Is it implied they are not welcome as well to open in English?

      November 3, 2013 at 8:34 am |
      • Enough

        Well said.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:06 am |
      • G to the T

        Personally, I don't think you should be able to be a "non-english speaking american citizenship". If for no other reason than multilingual societies waste so much time on duplicate effort (signage, etc.).

        November 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  2. BigBankTheory

    They need to bring in someone that will pray to Spaghetti Monster, to get the meeting off to a good start and spaghetti lunch!

    November 3, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  3. Dave Harris

    This seems like a solution in search of a problem. Would anything be any different if Christians couldn't mouth their holy words before a town meeting? They'd still be Christians who hate everybody and want to screw them all. The problem is not the meeting procedure, it's the disgusting religion that Christianity has become.

    November 3, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • elliott carlin

      You sound like such a lovely and caring person. thanks for being so inclusive.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:22 am |
      • Dave Harris

        You sound like a pious hypocrite. Have a nice day.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:23 am |
      • Enough

        What else can we expect from atheist.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:25 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Not all atheists are like that, and that's a bit of dishonesty on your part to indicate they are.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:29 am |
        • Charm Quark

          Enough
          There were a couple of other freaks like you that made similar posts...
          Is that you Douglas?
          Is that you Atheist Hunter?

          November 3, 2013 at 8:32 am |
        • Enough

          Well there are in fact more atheists like that than you'd think. Just look at the last post made by an atheists right after yours.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:47 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          I would agree with you. The majority of the atheists posting comments here sound sociopathic and insecure, but they do not reflect the behavior of all atheists.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:01 am |
        • Enough

          I totally agree with you, and i'm glad to hear that not all atheists are like them. Atheist like you i would welcome the to be my friend anytime.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Would anything be any different if Christians couldn't mouth their holy words before a town meeting?"""

      How could it be worse? Congress has been doing this for decades and look where that's gotten us.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  4. elliott carlin

    athiests, many time, deny reality when it comes to discussing the founding of our country as well as our country's time-honored traditions. there are a few on here who deny God is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence-now where you do you start with someone like that?

    Silly.

    But perhaps one day they'll free their minds of bigotry. I doubt it. But one thing I don't doubt: A Christian or anyone else who believes in God would never get their day in court in an society conjured up by athiests.

    November 3, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Everyone is allowed their day in court – they just may not get the ruling they desire, but that does not mean that they were denied due process.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Dave Harris

      Pointing out religious bigotry does not make one a bigot. And there are plenty of examples to point out.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • ShingoEX

      "The country was founded by very religious people." Yes, but it wasn't founded to be a religious country. Our freedom of rligion also icludes our freedom from religion, so please don't insinuate otherwise.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Igaftr

      Weel that's just false elliot.
      First...God is not in the const!tution. He is mentioned in the DoI. Just because he is mentioned does not lend any credibitlity to the belief.
      Atheists are tired of the laws that restrict them, the laws being ignored to force religion where it does not belong.
      We are not attacking your religions, we are pushing your religions off of us.
      your religion does not belong on our money.
      your religion does not belong on the pledge of allegience.
      Your religion does not belong in any oaths.
      your religion should not be used to keep people out of office or to stop others from testifying in court.
      (there are still laws on the books that prevent any atheist from holding office, and in Arkansas, an atheist is not allowed to testify in court.

      All you are feeling now is people who do not believe as you do, standing up for OUR rights to not have your religion forced upon us.

      Answer this...Why did the christians change the pledge of allegience an add the phrase that endorses THEIR belief? Why do you think atheists shouldn't speak out against that.
      The same for adding that lie to our money.
      Why do you think people who do not believe in the christian god should remain silent? It is because of people remaining silenbt that these changes were made....we are just trying to set things right....it is not an attack on relgion, it is a counter attack against the changes that were made because of religion.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:29 am |
      • SandyC

        Christians are about Christ, The term UNDER GOD id about God, If it it were about Christ it would say Under Christ......

        November 3, 2013 at 8:55 am |
        • Igaftr

          To most people...god is synonymous with THEIR god.
          That is why they say god bless, you and address their prayers to god.
          To one who has no belief, all gods are the same, and ALL gods are representative of a religion.
          Since religion does not have a place in government, neither should your god ( or anyone elses)
          God is a representative of religion, and religion is a representative of the believers perception of what god is.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  5. heatherb

    The whole separation of church and state was put in there because the in England people were being persecuted by the government and told where to worship/how to worship. It wasn't put in there because they felt religion was a problem. The country was founded by very religious people. Should it change? Maybe. But what I don't understand is this....if I went somewhere and a prayer of another religion was said, I might wonder why, but there isn't one part of me that would think that an entire room full of people (or a whole town, or a whole school) should change because I don't like it, understand it, or practice it. It's selfish. It's just as selfish and when crazy religious people try to tell everyone how to be or behave, or try to make laws based on what they believe. Maybe prayers in general shouldn't be said in public forums because not everyone practices that faith....I agree with that, I really do. I think as the country grows it needs to become more sensitive and diverse. But because one person is offended? I don't think we should start changing laws or practices because one person is offended. I really don't. If there were a bunch of people at that meeting who thought it shouldn't be said, that's different. But if the majority of people don't care, or like it, and it's not interfering with any law, then I really don't see the big deal.

    November 3, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • elliott carlin

      Heather, you can't use the diversity argument when it favors religion. That one is excluded.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • magicpanties

      So you would be fine with some Mullah talking about Islam, right?
      Or, how about an atheist talking about evolution?
      A Satanist? A Mormon polygamist?

      Just because these speakers happen to be in line with a majority does not make it right, or OK.
      Religion has no place in government or politics.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      That's interesting, but just because many people believe something, such as slavery, does not make it right.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Dennis

      I agree, I love using Government to force my religion on people.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  6. tkt2ride

    Get the GOD myth out of our government and ALL governments and maybe we could cut violent religious war deaths by a few million a year from Ireland(Catholics & Protestants) to Iraq (Muslims) to Israel (Jews) to... Oh! let's just say every continent, because people are cursed by religious bigotry daily in every part of this world. Take away the religion component and war would be left to drug dealers and the slavery trade. Your GOD hasn't helped anybody to be free of these tragedies!

    November 3, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • counterww

      if you really believe that if people stopped believing in God then war would cease, you have not been a very good student of history.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:51 am |
      • tkt2ride

        Oh, yes I am! Religious wars date back to prehistoric times and the sun gods and earth gods etc... Basically since the beginning of man. And some still worship GOD myths to this day, as I am sure you do.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:55 am |
        • tkt2ride

          I never said that war would cease, just that the majority of wars would. RELIGIOUS WARS!!!

          November 3, 2013 at 8:56 am |
        • hello

          It would be a lot more logical to worship the sun the a imaginary supernatural human myth character.
          We can see the sun and we know we could not live without it... But we do not see mythic gods and would live a lot more peaceful life without them.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:37 am |
      • hello

        If we were all infidels... there would be no reason for us to kill our own kind...

        November 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
      • tkt2ride

        Guess you went to church. Have seen you on lately. Hope there is not a tornado or flood. Your God won't save you from it.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  7. Vegas82

    It's pretty funny that this community doesn't understand when someone wants separation of church and state they add more religion into their government meetings. You don't want to hear ridiculous ramblings based on fairy tales? Let's change the fairy tale. They just don't get it. We want to talk about the real world, not fantasy worlds that are subjective based on your belief system.

    November 3, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • DaBudaMasta

      Absolutely correct.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  8. Anonymous

    I just want to know why people believe in a supreme being they can't prove exists. I want to know why they believe in teachings of uneducated, unsophisticated, and unenlightened people that lived long ago. I don't understand the purpose. To have a reason for our existence? A reason that can't be substantiated in any way. To ease the uneasiness of death? I have a hard time trusting people to be reasonable and competent when they profess to believe in something they can't prove exists. I have a hard time trusting people who explain an event by "it was God's will". I have a hard time trusting people who claim to adhere to Christian principles and then are intolerant, prejudicial, and resort to offensive behavior that includes threats of violence and actual violence to advance or protect their beliefs. It will take a long, long time, but eventually these ridiculous beliefs will join the belief junkyard that includes the Earth being flat, slavery is ok, and women don't deserve to vote. Considering how recent these revelations were, a very very long time...

    November 3, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • counterww

      i have a hard time with people that think the ancients did not have enlightenment. I also have a hard time with egotistical atheists that can't stand the fact that others believe in God. God 's gonna show up on the scene , bub, and for people like you, it won't be pretty.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:20 am |
      • counterww

        Unless of course you repent and realize how much God really does love you.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:21 am |
      • hello

        Gods and their dogma were created as political tools.. to control the masses... Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill

        November 3, 2013 at 8:23 am |
      • I've changed

        ..and when Allah has his way,I wouldn't want to be you.Do you realize that atheists DO NOT BELIEVE in h e ll ?Your threat of eternal torture does not work here.Religious people spend their lives in constant fear of this ridiculous notion and you can have all the fun you want with that.Can you not get your mind around that concept?C'mon,think it through;and have a nice fearful day !

        November 3, 2013 at 8:46 am |
        • counterww

          I have thought it through. And I believe the conclusion YOU have come to is a mistake.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  9. Ellabulldog

    Of course it should not be allowed. Believe in whatever you want at home or your place of worship. City Hall meetings or any government meeting should be about the town's business.

    November 3, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  10. magicpanties

    "...A few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation..."

    Yep, that's also what they said about slavery, about women voting, about civil and gay rights, etc.
    Religion has no place in government or politics.

    November 3, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • counterww

      That is an opinion. A wrong one in my view.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:15 am |
      • hello

        of course you do.. because you fit the christian mold... not everyone does...therefore rights of others not like you does not matter or concern you... so your discrimination of others is NOT your problem...

        November 3, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  11. Holy Man

    You have to love how "Christians" say they're being persecuted when they are told they can't force others listen to their religious mumblings.

    Persecution is when you are told you cannot practice your religion AT ALL. Not in the privacy of your own home, not in your own church, not anywhere.

    Persecution is being told that, in the name of whatever imaginary being you choose to believe, you prevent people with different beliefs from having the same legal rights you have.

    But "Christians" don't understand that. All the understand is that they must blindly follow some - but not all – rules laid down for them thousands of years ago by people who couldn't explain things like disease and nature.

    (Ask a "Christian" why they allow women to teach school and speak in church, and you'll understand why they don't even follow their own rules, as the Bible specifically prohibits women from teaching men and from speaking in church.)

    November 3, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Enough

      Atheists always feels like they are being persecuted by religious people. What difference does it makes?

      November 3, 2013 at 8:09 am |
      • magicpanties

        So you would be ok with an atheist opening every council meeting, talking about the inanity of religion, eh?
        No problem, right? Because you don't have to listen if you don't like it?

        Too funny.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:12 am |
      • Alias

        It is true for atheists.
        You are trying to make us pray to your god and follow your rules.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:14 am |
        • counterww

          No one is asking anyone to pray. SOMEONE ELSE is praying. there was a time when unbelievers had respect for those that do and they did not get their panties all in a bunch when someone did it in a public forum. Lots of chips on your shoulders, atheists.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:16 am |
        • Peregrine

          Yeah, I remember the good old days when we could burn or torture or kill them. Unbelievers knew their place back then.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:25 am |
        • Alias

          And what about the prayer you want in public schools?
          You do want to force our children into your cult.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:26 am |
        • I've changed

          Yup-those pesky rules of science,legality and logic.Sorry to bother you.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:49 am |
      • Igaftr

        enough
        Slaves always feel persecuted by their owners. What difference does it make?

        November 3, 2013 at 8:17 am |
        • Enough

          Even if you're asking me, what difference would it makes?

          November 3, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  12. Alvin Cavanaugh

    This country was founded on Christian beliefs. The early settlers came here to have a chance at freedom of religion. Separating church and state is the very reason our country is in the mess that it is. If prayer bothers someone they may be the very ones who need to hear it.

    November 3, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      No, this country was founded by people, some of which had Christian beliefs. Not so for Thomas Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Paine, etc. You are misrepresenting history.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:04 am |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        Historian Gregg L. Frazer argues that the leading Founders (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Wilson, Morris, Madison, Hamilton, and Washington) were neither Christians nor Deists, but rather supporters of a hybrid "theistic rationalism".[24]

        November 3, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Taliban

      Cool, let's turn this country to Afghanistan and ruled by Taliban. After all, they worship the same god.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • Robert

      And you obviously believe everything you are told. You need to reread your US history. And stop listening to preachers who bend and stretch the truth to fit their Babble stories.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:13 am |
      • counterww

        As soon as you call the Bible "babble" you reveal yourself. quite transparent.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:17 am |
        • Bob

          As what? An intelligent, rational person? The Bible is obvious nonsense.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Brian

      Founded on Christian beliefs? Tell that to Franklin, Jefferson and Washington. They believed in a creator but rejected Christian beliefs and scripture and I'm pretty sure they had something to do with the founding of our country.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:19 am |
      • counterww

        But they did not have the disdain for religion like this atheists and most atheists do.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  13. Guest

    Every single atheist I have ever met was a childish, self-centered ego maniac. Every single one. As an agnostic, I have zero respect for them.

    November 3, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • JJ

      You should get out more by leaving your mother's basement every once in a while.

      November 3, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • wing ding

      apparently you don't know too many atheists. I know a lot of religionists and most are deluded with the need to believe in the magic sky people protecting them from the demons.

      November 3, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Jake

      That's a pretty ignorant thing to say. Considering many atheists are closet atheists due to the negative social stigma, you can't possibly know who you've met that's an atheist.

      November 3, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • If I had a hammer... I'd whack you in the morning

      Agnostic: a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not. : a person who does not believe or is unsure of something ... you on the fence bubba?

      November 3, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      The only thing that comes to mind is that you must not be reading very much, because there certainly are atheists who are not abrasive. However, I would agree that the majority of people posting as atheists here are exactly as you have described.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Agnostic only defines not being certain in what you know, it does not define belief.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Enough

      I agree with you Guest.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:10 am |
      • truthprevails1

        Of course you do...you're an uneducated moron!

        November 3, 2013 at 8:11 am |
        • Enough

          LOL

          November 3, 2013 at 8:30 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Grade 2, 20 times overs at Mommy's kitchen table doesn't count. Only children and schizophrenics have imaginary friends...you obviously are not a child, go seek some medical attention for your mental health issue.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • I've changed

      @guest-Agnostics are merely atheists without the courage and intelligence to come out.Sit on the fence much?So you want to believe in a judgemental mob boss in the sky who sent himself down to get tortured and murdered to rejoin himself to save us from himself,but you just can't make the connection to reason.Good luck with that.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I believe everyone is agnostic regarding the standard God of Abraham. That is a statement about what people know. The truth about that God is not accessible, so knowledge about it is not something anyone can have. I don't put belief on an equal footing with unbelief. Unbelief is the proper state when God isn't evident. Unbelief is proper when an assertion doesn't have enough merit even for consideration.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:17 am |
      • hello

        ever wonder why the christian myth is rooted in the jewish myth.. yet it is raging anti jewish... Read visit the Caesar's Messiah web site.. and visit the Facebook and YouTube.. info linked to the site.. to find out why...

        November 3, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  14. ElmerGantry

    ksta stated,
    ___________________________________________________________________________________________

    o ksta
    Of course,what atheists conveniently fail to mention is they also have a belief system. Man is their higher power, and evolution is their religion.
    November 3, 2013 at 12:38 am | Report abuse | Reply

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________

    LOL
    Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    November 3, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • Enough

      Atheism is communism and nazism combined.

      November 3, 2013 at 7:53 am |
      • truthprevails1

        EDUCATION-GET ONE!!!

        November 3, 2013 at 7:56 am |
      • Charm Quark

        Another ignorant statement, keep up the good work, bubba.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:03 am |
      • Jeff Williams

        I'm glad there are people out there like you. You're so fun to play with. And you don't even realize it. You're the Honey Boo Boo of online discussion.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Jimbob

      Nice try but Atheists do not see evolution as a religion. Keep up the lies, though.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:03 am |
      • Enough

        Lies? Atheism is the most destroying cult out there. Atheism is trying very hard to destroy every single religion out here, ain't that the truth? The biggest moral values destroyers is in fact atheism.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:15 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Do you enjoy sounding like an uneducated moron? You're being shot down with every comment you make, are you that clueless???

          November 3, 2013 at 8:20 am |
        • counterww

          He is pretty right on. For moronic, look in the mirror.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:22 am |
        • hello

          Atheism is not trying to destroy anything but instead to inform people of the mythic lies....

          humanity created the gods so the god creators could live like gods by fleecing the flock ..
          The myth masters... created the gods so the kings could use their mythic tales as rules of law... because ignorance in science and acceptance it the supernatural was the norm... not so now... those who cling to the myth... as locked in the minds of the ignorant myth slaves.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • JJJackson

      If you spent your every waking moment crying "boo hoo, I don't like stamps and I don't want to hear about them," then it would be a hobby.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:16 am |
  15. Terry

    These "plaintiffs" are obviously not secure in what they believe. For the atheist, why does it upset you that people pray to a being that you believe does not exist? For you it should be like they're praying to Peter Pan. For the Jew, you also do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah so why be so upset that his name is mentioned? You're not being forced to pray along with them and you're not impressionable children. You argue about the whole separation of church and state thing but forget that "state" is made up of people; people of every color and creed who have beliefs.

    November 3, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • Taliban

      If you are so secured, why you have to flaunt it? I thought religion is personal. Personally to me, anybody who believes in a book written 2000 years ago are idiot.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:10 am |
      • hello

        myths and their religions are political tools... still being used today...many of those tools are weapon to make others believe in the gods so the myth masters can rule over those who are brainwashed into their myth of control

        November 3, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Igaftr

      Terry.
      These plaintiffs know exactly what they are doing, very secure in what they believe.
      This is regarding a function of government. There should not be time set aside in any prayer. The people should come prepared to do the work of the people. They should not be wasting the people's time with this sort of thing. Sitting silent while it continues is taken as if it is endorsed.
      These people have stood up and voiced their (correct) opinion). Prayer has no place in the business of the governemt...from small town to the federal level.

      How would these people like a satanic prayer, or islamic prayer, or an atheist telling you why he believes there are no gods....don't you see it is simply inappropriate, and if no one speaks up to identify how wrong it is, this sort of thing will continue.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:14 am |
      • Terry

        So your problem isn't with the prayer itself, it's with taking time away from the business at hand. Am I hearing that correctly? That is a totally different argument. A legitimate one I might add. But this is about prayer itself at a government meeting. I find nothing wrong with it as long as it isn't the government officials leading it.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:46 am |
        • hello

          the best time to do your praying is when you are sitting on your throne.... every morning... cleaning out both ends or you body with human waste.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:15 am |
        • Igaftr

          And I do have a problem with it.
          Would you sit quielty while a satanic ritual was used to open government business?

          It is as inappropriate as having a math lecture to start a high scool basketball game. It is neither the time nor place for open practice of religion.
          Like in the PoA, not appropriate.
          Like the lie on our money...inappropriate.

          How would you feel if I came to a church and told you all of the evils of religion?... inappropriate. Not the time nor the place.
          A government function is the wrong timie and the wrong place to forward religion.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Jimbob

      State is comprised of people of multiple faiths and creed. Why are these prayers sessions Christian only with occasional condemnation of other faiths? What do these prayer sessions have to do with the business of government? People can pray at home, at their place of worship, in their car on the way to and from work. There's no need to impose Christianity with occasional self-righteousness on atheists, Jews, Hindus, etc.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:14 am |
      • Terry

        Did ya even read the article Jimbob? They invite anyone to open with a prayer, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, etc. And the only people complaining are those who believe there is no one to pray to. Shame on the Supreme Court for even considering hearing arguments about this.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • magicpanties

      Ha! Religious belief is the epitome of insecurity.

      "Oh, I'm afraid that when I die, I may no longer exist, so best to believe in a fairy tale of an afterlife."

      November 3, 2013 at 8:18 am |
      • counterww

        No, it goes like this. I realize I need God. I know that God loves me. I know that I love God. I also know to love others I need to love God. The eternal stuff is part of it, but not the main part.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Ellabulldog

      So how about an equal amount of time to babble something silly right after the prayer? For an atheist or agnostic that is what we hear when people pray. Just a bunch of silly nonsense. It assaults our intelligence and wastes our time. When we say that prayer is nonsense we then are accused of attacking religion and other's beliefs. People were jailed and killed for saying the Earth was not flat but round, so while we may not be jailed or killed "in the US" it can hurt us in business or our personal life to truly say what we think. Quite brave of these plaintiffs to go to this level to stop the prayers. Other countries will still kill you if you don't believe as they do.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:24 am |
      • Terry

        Professing one's faith can also be detrimental to business i.e. the bake shop that refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. Those are the choices we make in life. Assaults your intelligence? How? Other people "babbling" assaults your intelligence. That's pretty amazing statement.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Brett

      When someone stands up in front of a group and prays aloud, the implication is that everyone in the room is expected to be listening and that the prayer is being said on behalf of everyone at the meeting. When someone then references "Jesus Christ" – – often by saying "In the lord Jesus Christ's name we pray" or something to that effect . . .I'm sorry, but it is very uncomfortable for those who do not practice the Christian faith. The implication in the "we" is that it includes everyone in the room. It's completely unnecessary to start a business or government gathering with a prayer. I would not have a problem with a moment of silence which would permit those who feel they must pray for the outcome of the meeting to do so while others can contemplate the subject that is about to be discussed. Government, of all things, should aim to include, not exclude, people of varying believe systems in its function. A sectarian prayer immediately starts the meeting off in an exclusionary and unnecessary way.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:45 am |
      • Terry

        Why do you feel uncomfortable? Would you feel as uncomfortable if the prayer was to Buddha or whoever Wiccans pray to? I don't, because I know my heart. I know what I believe and someone else can include me or not. It's not what I believe. Would it surprise you to learn that there of those of us in the believing world who pray for you whether you know it or not?

        November 3, 2013 at 8:55 am |
        • hello

          Take time to learn the evolution of the mythic concept...the mythic behaviors and concepts have been collected like a snowball through human history. Once you see that you will then see that the god concept is a very primitive way humanity guessed as to why the world was and they knew it. The use of religious/mythic concepts have been woven into the current political tools...AKA religions... visit the web site Caesar's Messiah... for the details on how the Romans created the christian myth and why.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """why does it upset you that people pray to a being that you believe does not exist?"""

      Because it's symptomatic of a culture which will accept what they're being told without evidence, a lack of critical thinking skills.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  16. AvdBerg

    Why have a debate in the Highest Court when people's prayers are all in vain (Matthew 15:9)?

    God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth (John 9:31). In fact God heareth where two or three are gathered in His name (Matthew 18:20).

    What does it mean to be a sinner?

    All those that call themselves Christians are not necessarily followers of Jesus Christ, but rather followers of an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24).

    For a better understanding of the above article and the history of 'Christianity', we invite you to read the articles 'Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?', 'What is Sin?', 'Victory over Sin' and 'The Decline and Fall of a Divided Nation (Matthew 12:25)' listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    All the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9, and what mankind must do to be reunited with the true and living God.

    November 3, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • midwest rail

      Atta boy, Andy ! Still stealing advertising, still a thief.

      November 3, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • Mark_Alan

      Please explain to us all then why God performed miracles to free the Jewish slaves from the Pharoah but did nothing to save the six million Jews during the Holocaust.

      November 3, 2013 at 7:43 am |
      • JJ

        “I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty
        Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”

        [Adolph Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936]

        November 3, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Ponyboy Garfunkel

      I am amazed by this gift of clarity you possess, what with seeing trough the deception and all. You are one smart cookie!, or not...

      November 3, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Robert

      "And Gawd speaketh to mine ears. And said "Do not read his posts for he be a lying salesman who beggeth you to go his website!"

      November 3, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • hello

      there are no such things as gods.... living or dead....

      November 3, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  17. Mark_Alan

    Sadly, there is no such thing as separation of church and state. "In God we trust" is printed on our money and Christmas is a federal holiday. Freedom from religion is impossible in this country.

    November 3, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      No, there is, otherwise we would be suffering in a Christian theocracy. Change takes time, and the Pew surveys show that.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:11 am |
      • Mark_Alan

        That's a good point. But my point is this nation is already basically a theocracy. It will take quite a few more generations for religion to once and for all be overcome by logic and reason.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:18 am |
        • counterww

          what a laugh. You guys believe that "logic and reason" cannot include God.

          Wonder how you will get people to not believe.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:32 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          No, it's not a theocracy. Take a look at some modern examples. For example, in parts of Yemen where fundamental Islam is practiced, shops are forced to close for the purpose of reciting prayers at the mosques.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • hello

      They have "In god we trust" on our currency because they know putting " In our government we trust" would be a lie everyone would recognize..

      Why doesn't everyone demand.. "In our government we trust" be put on our currency and demand it be true?

      because IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!

      November 3, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  18. georgex9

    Prayers in government business lets hypocrisy be shown in officials where they may appear pious but are really not.

    November 3, 2013 at 7:33 am |
  19. Tutuvabene

    Will the court leave "so help me God" off of the swearing in procedure?

    November 3, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • midwest rail

      That phrase is not, nor has it ever been, required.

      November 3, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Emigdio

      they have in the Air Force cadet's oath.

      November 3, 2013 at 7:42 am |
      • truthprevails1

        This has you worried, doesn't it?? It's one more step to your crazy belief system going to the pages of history as a dead religion.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:28 am |
        • Enough

          That will never happen.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:31 am |
        • truthprevails1

          You keep thinking that and time will prove you wrong. What a pleasant day that will be!

          November 3, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  20. james learn

    Why would an atheist, be upset, that they were not given the chance, to open the meeting with prayer?? Who would they pray to?? And if they prayed, wouldn't that mean they believed in a GOD??? They need to quit losing sleep over this issue, and get a life........

    November 3, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • Alex

      You're missing the point – they're saying that there shouldn't be any such prayer. Keep swingin' slugger.

      November 3, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Jake

      Get a life? Seriously, you don't get it, do you? You can't have prayers in a government meeting! It's completely inappropriate. Imagine starting a meeting with a brief speech about white power. Hey, if you're not white, you're welcome to sit outside during that part. If you don't like it, get a life.

      November 3, 2013 at 7:36 am |
      • Colo001

        Jake-That is so bass ackwards it is incredible. I am an atheist and every atheist I ever read about fighting for freedom from religion has some kind of agenda. It is not illegal to pray at government functions. it is illegal for the Federal Government to endorse or make any religion compulsory or the official religion of the land. What atheist would care about taking a moment to pray or ask for a moment of silence? Those atheists have an agenda and have made atheism a religion and are hypocritical.

        November 3, 2013 at 7:52 am |
        • Enough

          Nicely said Colo.

          November 3, 2013 at 7:56 am |
        • Jake

          You're absolutely right I have an agenda – equality. No one should feel unwelcome at a government affiliation because of their religious beliefs or lack-there-of. When you start a government meeting with a religious prayer, it's not appropriate. And it's no different than starting with a speech about white supremacy. It has no place in a government meeting.

          November 3, 2013 at 7:56 am |
        • Enough

          Hypocrisy of atheists at it's best. They say they all are for equality, but they can't even stand someone praying in front of them. What kind of equality is this?

          November 3, 2013 at 8:18 am |
        • Jake

          Yeah...I think you need to look up hypocrisy.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:25 am |
        • Enough

          How about we both look it up?

          November 3, 2013 at 8:32 am |
      • Terry

        Hey Jake, How is a speech about white power a prayer? We're talking about prayer which is talking to a higher being. If you don't believe there is a higher being, what does it matter? Do you argue or protest a schizophrenic who talks to someone who isn't there? From an atheist view point, it should be the same thing. Why does it bother you so much that other people choose to talk to someone you believe isn't there?

        November 3, 2013 at 8:02 am |
        • Jake

          It bothers me because it is a public forum where all should be welcome. When you start that meeting off with a religious prayer or a speech about white power, it sends a clear message about who is and isn't welcome to participate in the meeting. It ostracizes those who aren't religious / white and makes them feel like they should be there. As someone who has never been religious, I've dealt with it my entire life and it's a very uncomfortable feeling to have to sit through a strange ritualistic prayer just to participate in something that should be open to all.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:08 am |
        • Terry

          As I said in my original post, you're obviously not secure in your belief. I'm a born again Christian, very secure in my beliefs. I've attended various functions, participated in other religious ceremonies and yet I still have my beliefs in tact. And don't think I haven't been called names, not invited to certain functions and the like. And I'm OK with that, too.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:18 am |
        • Jake

          Terry, this has nothing to do with being "secure in my belief". And yes, I'm much more secure in my belief than any religious person since my belief doesn't require any leap in faith. In fact, calling it a belief is a bit of a leap – it's just knowledge. That doesn't mean that it isn't extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant for me to have to sit through religious rituals that I strongly disagree with. I shouldn't have to pay that price to attend a public meeting. I don't see why this concept is so difficult to grasp. As I've said, it would be similar to a non-white having to sit through a few minutes of white supremacy opening remarks to attend a public meeting. How could that be considered reasonable?

          November 3, 2013 at 8:34 am |
      • Brett

        I I think your example is spot-on, Jake. A government meeting is not the place to stand up before the meeting starts and give a speech on your belief system (which is essentially what a prayer is) because it starts the meeting off in a contentious way and has nothing to do with the purpose of the meeting. It's inappropriate in a venue where people are gathered together to work TOGETHER to solve problems. To start with a prayer is divisive and unnecessary. I will concede that perhaps some people do feel a need to ask for God's blessing before starting on important work. If that's the case, then a moment of silence should suffice . . .which permits each person to either use the moment to pray or to use the moment to contemplate the work ahead of them.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • GMR

      Why do you, feel the need, to use, so many commas?

      November 3, 2013 at 7:41 am |
      • Jake

        I guess it's shocking to see someone who knows how to punctuate properly.

        November 3, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • hello

      Prayer is a stupid concept anyway...

      November 3, 2013 at 8:19 am |
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About this blog

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.