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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. JohnDeere33

    She can't keep me from praying.

    November 3, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      yes, you go do just that. Reality is pretty scary for you, isn't it? Don't worry, you'll grow up one day.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:25 am |
      • Oh boy

        I think what John is trying to say is that you are not in control of his words and thoughts. But enjoy your war on fiction. It'll be an interesting prize if you manage it.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  2. bootyfunk

    Christians must be denied the vote because they are evil. They believe the abrahamic god wants them to kill everyone or enslave them them and beat them with sticks.

    November 3, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      you can even apply their destruction to modern days.. child abuse and the destruction to children's lives by threats directed from the vatican..

      November 3, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • justageek

      Fail.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Horse noodles

      Nice post. 😀

      November 3, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  3. georgex9

    Closing ones eyes when a prayer is being said doesn't mean that the politician is really listening to the prayer or even thinking about it. Many want to appear pious but are really just looking after their special interests. Better to keep this hypocrisy out of official town meetings.

    November 3, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  4. steve

    if the majority wants to pray so what the minority should respect that.....why she has to deprive us the majority from our right to do so.......she is a jew!!!!! no she is not she is ethiest so dont label her as a women of faith she has no faith...
    we respect her been with us and if she want to pray for her void ethias something let it be we pray the way we see it fit to us......in school or arena we are the majority of tax payers and we pay her many taxes in the road and health etc....so we we should also have right to take of our taxes from going to ethias people imagine if we allowed to do that she will die from hanger and starvation....

    November 3, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      yeah.. and if a majority of the village wants slavery,, then let them.. And if the majority of a village wants to deny women the opportunity to vote, then let them.

      Your point..

      November 3, 2013 at 11:18 am |
      • justageek

        Not the same.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:24 am |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          I see,, then a village can pick and choose the parts of the cons-t-itution they like of dislike.

          I see.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:26 am |
        • justageek

          That's not what I said.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:34 am |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          however it is what you are saying.. Can't manipulate, that wouldn't be an honest thing..

          November 3, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • G to the T

          Absolutely the same whether you agree with it or not...

          November 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Mark

      Steve, what the majority wants is not necessarily the best thing, or what is enforced.

      I am also an atheist, and there is no room in the government for set religion. If they are going to spend a few moments for Christian prayers, then they should include a moment for all religious prayers, and a moment for atheists. This would be counter productive to the democratic process and cost us more tax dollars.

      Just loose it and get on with real and more important matters.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:23 am |
      • *

        *lose (not loose)

        November 3, 2013 at 11:48 am |
      • aldewacs2

        To be fair and equal, there are only TWO answers:
        1. Equal representation of ALL religions (and non-religions) at every meeting.
        2. No religious (and non-religious) statements to take precious time away from the meeting agenda.

        (1) would be prohibitively disruptive and time consuming.
        I guess it has to be (2).

        November 3, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  5. ag

    The atheists who object to taking God's name are not true atheists. If they are true atheists, then it should not matter to them. They are fakers and attention grabbers.

    November 3, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • It's actually even simpler

      God's name is fine... in your house. It doesn't belong as a part of governmental procedures. Try to understand this very, very easy point.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      it's rather an insult to our intelligence to be brought down with childish god beliefs.. afraid to grow up?

      November 3, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • IslandAtheist

      No true Scotsman fallacy

      November 3, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • berryrat

      Ever seen a TV evangelist speaking in tongue and begging for cash. That's an attention grabber.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  6. coastlinecascot

    Im not religious by all means. However Atheists pushing Atheism onto others is in fact pushing their religion.

    November 3, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Observer

      How is this pushing atheism? Are they asking for time in the meetings to talk about atheism?

      November 3, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      bet you are... your post is a child's manipulation. What is to be expected from those who live lives with fairy tales.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • ME II

      1) Atheism is not a religion.
      2) Dropping the prayer during a government meeting isn't pushing anything on anyone. It is simply restricting the government meeting to matters related to the government.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Joe

      I think many people here are confusing atheism with governmental secularism (the separation of church and state).

      November 3, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Darwin was right

      NOT believing in MAGIC INVISIBLE CHARACTERS with long hair and beards who live in the sky is NOT a religion, any more than NOT FISHING is a hobby.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • Ray

      Well...if atheism were a religion...then I might agree. And if they were asking for a turn at the pulpit to say that God doesn't exist, etc...then you would have a valid argument. If that were the case, then I would object to their "prayer" just as I object to yours. But you don't get to claim that your not being allowed to promote your religion is, in fact a promotion of atheism.

      If two children fight over a toy and the parent takes that toy away...then neither child has the toy. That is NOT being treated unfairly.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  7. davejjj

    Religion and government should obviously be kept separate, but we have this annoying history of beginning government meetings with invocations from government-appointed chaplains. With an established tradition how can we ever put that nonsense behind us? We ought to burn a few witches every year too. Maybe we can get a witchdoctor to butcher a chicken every time the House of Representatives begins a new session.

    November 3, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Doris

      Yes, and it should go. I think in the near future it will go. James Madison, father of the Constitution & Bill of Rights, came to oppose the long-established practice of employing chaplains at public expense in the House of Representatives and Senate on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state and the principles of religious freedom. (See Library of Congress – James Madison Papers – Detached memorandum, ca. 1823.)

      November 3, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Darwin was right

      HEY, I like it! Couldn't make the House any worse, right? Someone ought to sprinkle some chicken blood on Ted Cruz's head – could do him some good!

      November 3, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  8. Andyourpoint is?

    The meeting will come to order.

    The first item on our agenda is......

    OK, Let's get started.

    WHAT'S SO FRIGGIN HARD ABOUT THAT? Business is business!

    November 3, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  9. Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

    glad to see religion is on the way out.. Time the christian/muslim voodoo went back into caves.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  10. NorCalMojo

    Freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Religious speech should be protected like any other form of speech.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      actually,, it was the founding fathers need to have religion OUT of our government. They did this as a result of genuine experiences of religions destructive behaviors.

      Voodoo and cults,, the christian witchcraft.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:01 am |
      • Letmeout

        F you

        November 3, 2013 at 11:04 am |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          I know your christian 'kids tree house rules and stories' are important to you. Howver the rest of us understand the destruction religion can have on a society.

          When christians and muslims are not tamed by secular society,, we have the middle east, inquisition, crusades, destruction to children's live.. Pretty ugly stuff from a group that claims they want to set the moral compass. They are the last group we should allow to do that.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:07 am |
      • coastlinecascot

        Actually the separation of church and state had to do with more of the government running religion not vice versa.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:06 am |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          you often love to make stuff up,, religion is a make believe, so I'd expect that

          November 3, 2013 at 11:15 am |
        • Observer

          Thomas Jefferson, famous for his statement about the separation of the two, believed the Bible contains so much nonsense that he edited his version down to 50 pages.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:19 am |
        • NSL

          That is not accurate. While it is true, the founders wanted to ensure the government stayed out of pulpit of religion, it was also true that they wanted to protect the rights and well-being of themselves and their posterity, as they realized how many Americans came here fleeing the countries of Europe where so much harm was done by government in the name of religion, due to their partnered relationship, such as Spain, and England. And it wasn't just non-Christians who were fleeing Europe in droves to escape the religious tyranny of the governments of Europe. It was many Christians too; Quakers, Puritans, Pilgrims. The colony of Rhode Island was settled specifically to gain for its people, religious freedom.

          Why not take a few American history lessons before you spout the nonsense found in your post?

          November 3, 2013 at 11:37 am |
        • Ray

          NSL...what do you expect when people learn "history" in church?

          November 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Darwin was right

      Religious speech in general is NOT PROTECTED – only certain "approved" religious speech, i.e. Christian speech. I'm sure the Greece city council would not permit ME to offer a prayer to HIS HOLINESS THE CAT GOD. BTW, I have proof that the Cat God exists – look at all the women who WORSHIP CATS!

      November 3, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Doris

      Well you're welcome to try to amend the Consti-tution – I must warn you – it's not an easy process. But between the 9th Amendment and the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment, there is a degree of freedom FROM religion when it comes to religious involvement in government. They are there to keep people from stepping on each others' toes. Not everyone abides by them, so we see from time to time, like this, where they continues to be applied.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:06 am |
      • Doris

        continue not "continues"

        November 3, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Lisa

      There is quite a difference between religious speech and a mandated group prayer.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  11. richard miller

    We absolutely should abolish anything that makes anyone fell unconfortable.I'm sure our founding fathers would.oh never mind.Keep dragging this country down.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      religion is just primitive,, an insult to intelligence.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • NSL

      You've misstated the point, purposely, in my opinion. May you never have to stand in the shoes of Linda Stephens, as if you do, you'll find out what a fool you are and how little about the world you understand.

      The government of Greece is nothing but a bully with its governmental leaders trying to make all think the way they think and impose their religion on everyone else in Greece. Beyond it all, they should be ashamed.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  12. Steve5777

    It all seems so simple to me. It's called tolerance. I have no problem with anyone's beliefs.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Doris

      Not everyone is like you, Steve. For the others, the wall of separation serves its purpose.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:02 am |
      • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

        some would like us to act as a civilized nation.. religion keeps us from that.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • aldewacs2

      But tolerance must be a two-way street.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:37 am |
      • Steve5777

        Oh, I know, Doris. And of course, tolerance has to be both ways. Granted, I'm often simple-minded about some things, but why do I have no problem with whatever anyone believes?

        November 3, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  13. PerceivedReality

    I see the Atheists are still hating on the Christians. I am a Christian, and guess what? I do not hate Atheists, nor would I attempt to silence their voice. Atheist should have a right to have a "Moment of contemplation" when religious folks have a moment of prayer.
    Why are Atheists so offended by a bunch of people talking to an imaginary being?

    November 3, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Doris

      Why waste time at a government function for something that our Consti-tution already has addressed?

      November 3, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • geckopelli

      I don't want your, "moment of contemplation" or whatever.
      I want a few minutes to espouse the view that religion is for the unimaginative and drab and best, the feeble minded at worst, and that all Christians live in the Hell of ignorance, while non-believers live in a Heaven of being able to think for themselves.
      How about it? You preach christian superiority, I'll preach christian inferiority.
      Equal time?

      November 3, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Tom K

      That's what church is for, and I can choose not to go there. At a government sponsored event, meeting, etc. where people of ALL faiths (and non-believers) are in attendance, it doesn't belong.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  14. Full disclosure: I'm from Greece NY, but not on in politics

    What i see in this case, and comments, is just angry people trying to push others around so they feel better. Everyone needs to to take a step back from each other on the playground and look at their own behavior.

    I see all these comments from people saying, "stop shoving your religion down our throat". Nobody's forcing you to believe anything, nobody's even forcing you to listen. Christians today understand it's not appropriate to legislate against other beliefs. It would be more mature if everyone accepted the differing non/beliefs and let people believe, or not, as they would and stop trying to push others around like a playground bully to get them to say "uncle". Don't be a bully. No one likes a bully.

    Also, I see atheists taking it beyond the logical aspects of their non-beliefs and making it a bit personal. But if we stick to their own logic we can extrapolate the logical outcome of this case. Since atheists don't believe in a god of any kind, these prayers are just words or wishes to them. As per their own logic these words have no unfluence on the outcome of the proceedings since, as per their belief, there is no god who will do anything in response to the prayer. Since there will be no unfair advantage gained to any party by the prayer because the outcome won't be infuenced, there will also be no loss to any party. If there is no loss there are no damages. With no damages... where's your case? Why force the issue unless its become personal? If it is personal now, then its no longer about the logic of seperation of church and state. You asked for equality in representation and the board accomodated by having speakers from multiple belief systems. Logically atheists might be difficult to represent unless someone just stood up and said, "Hi. I'm Bob." What else would they really say?

    Just another bunch of angry people trying to force their "non"-beliefs on other people. You are free to be you. Let others be who they are. Let it go. Your requests were heard and addressed. Now you're just pushing the issue for some personal agenda I am not aware of. And that just comes across as being a bully.

    I dont like bullies. Do you?

    November 3, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • midwest rail

      " Christians today understand it's not appropriate to legislate against other beliefs. "
      You're kidding, right ?

      November 3, 2013 at 10:54 am |
      • PerceivedReality

        No not kidding. You cannot consider every position a Christian takes on any subject to be because of their faith.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:59 am |
        • midwest rail

          Nice of you to answer for the O.P. Unfortunately, being intentionally obtuse hardly qualifies as an answer.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:01 am |
        • Lisa

          But then they push for CIVIL LAW to be enforced upon ALL (non-Christians) included and they have no problem with that.

          And it defeats their belief in my opinion. If you believe in something, then live it. Why do you need civil law to *enforce* it?

          November 3, 2013 at 11:50 am |
      • Full disclosure: I'm from Greece NY, but not on in politics

        I'm not kidding. I will admit it is a bit difficult for me to provide proof of something that doesn't happen anymore. But I can defintely offer up a case of someone trying to legislate away prayer 😉

        November 3, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      Good post. I don't understand why they are so offended by a conversation with an imaginary being.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:57 am |
      • G to the T

        Because I believe the government should treat all people equally, not just those that happen to share your belief. So we either include ALL possible points of view, or we make governement neutral to religious views. Which makes more sense to you? For me, neutral is the safest and most viable option.

        November 4, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      So, what would an atheist say? Something like "No God is present in this room or anywhere. We are entirely on our own. What happens here is entirely up to us, so everyone apply your best effort according to your own essential integrity to do the job we have before us."

      November 3, 2013 at 10:57 am |
      • PerceivedReality

        And that would be just fine. Why should any voice be silenced. We should all come together and accept each other. Let's work together to make the best country possible.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:00 am |
        • Tom K

          So let's waste 30 minutes allowing each person with their own beliefs to get up and make a 2 minute speech about whatever agenda they want to push. Good idea.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:13 am |
        • Doris

          why should the 23% have to listen to the 77% over something already deemed unconsti-tutional? it's just rude to waste the time of others like that with something already considered wrong.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • ME II

      What benefit is prayer at a government function?

      November 3, 2013 at 10:57 am |
      • PerceivedReality

        Christians believe that the ultimate wisdom comes from God. When praying, Chrsitians will often pray for God to grant them wisdom, so the prayer will attain a more rightous solution to the problem being debated. At the very least, it is an act of brotherhood, where the sentiment of community can be enhanced, thereby inspiring goodwill and compromise.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:04 am |
        • G to the T

          " At the very least, it is an act of brotherhood, where the sentiment of community can be enhanced, thereby inspiring goodwill and compromise."

          To other christians perhaps but it sends the oppposite message to those outside of that "brotherhood".

          November 4, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
      • ME II

        "Christians believe...." pretty much negates the rest of your statement.

        Case in point. This prayer is obviously NOT promoting brotherhood and compromise, except among Christians of course. So, if all you're concerned about are Christians, then you are correct. However, that just validates the complaints by the Atheists, as well as any other non-Christian group in this town.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Darwin was right

      Dear Full disclosure: You're forgetting that it is only through 200 years of skeptics, agnostics, and non-believers pushing back against religious oppression in America that we have today the freedom to express NON-BELIEF. If it wasn't for these brave people, Christians zealots would have the government power to arrest and torture and even hang anyone who disagreed with them!

      November 3, 2013 at 11:01 am |
      • PerceivedReality

        Christians believe that not even God himself would infringe on our free will.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:06 am |
      • Full disclosure: I'm from Greece NY, but not on in politics

        I will agree that we have all, hopefully, grown to accept others and to be tolerant of their beliefs or lack there of

        November 3, 2013 at 11:20 am |
      • berryrat

        Yep, sorta like the burning times all over again. They love nothing more than a good witch hunt.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Igaftr

      It was the bullies that put the statement into the PoA.
      It was the bullies that put the lie on our money.
      Sitting in silence is taken as endorsement.
      Religion has no place in a government function.
      Individuals can pray all they want, so no one is fighting your religion, we just do not want you to practice it when it is inappropriate to do so.
      Why do you think it is appropriate to perform a religious ceremony ( a led prayer) at a government function.

      Would it be appropriate to discuss a government mandate to start your church service?

      November 3, 2013 at 11:04 am |
      • PerceivedReality

        How is "In God we trust" a lie? I trust in God, and the vast majority of Americans do too. Why would you call it a lie?

        November 3, 2013 at 11:07 am |
        • Igaftr

          Very simple. It is a lie.

          I am one of "we the people" the all inclusive we.
          I do not trust in any gods.
          Therefore, the statement "in god we trust" since I am one of we, and do not trust in gods, makes that statement a lie.

          It could be changed to in god most of us trust, or in god many of us trust, then it would be true, but since I am one of the all inclusive we, it is a lie. That simple.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:20 am |
      • Full disclosure: I'm from Greece NY, but not on in politics

        "It was the bullies..." You could argue that. However if you are creating something, don't you put something of yourself into it? Don't you put your personal mark on it? An artist signs his work when he finishes his creation. Writers dedicate their books to their muses. Creating a new county was as much art as anything else I can think of. They invested their hearts, souls and lives. In this case the people who founded the country didicated their work to their inspiration: God.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:29 am |
        • Charm Quark

          Except that many/several were Deists that did not believe in an interfering judgemental "god" and would be appalled to see gods that are butting into the affairs of state/government as an anathema.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:36 am |
        • Igaftr

          You are forgetting something.... The Pledge of allegience was written by a pastor in Mount Morris, NY ( i know you know where that is) and did not have the phrase in it....that was added by the christians in the fifties.

          The lie on our money was added by the christians in the fifties.

          These people didn't create anything...they took what was in existance and forced their religion into it.
          They created laws curtailing the rights of atheists...is that what they should be proud of?

          The forefathers were from various religious sects, which is why, when the saw the infighting of one belief over another, yet no one had a mojority, they decided to seperate religion from government, since they were never going to get anywhere while trying to include it.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:47 am |
        • Full disclosure: I'm from Greece NY, but not on in politics

          Charm Quark: perfect point. And their symbolism is all over our money and architecture, right alongside "Christian" influences.

          Perfect example of how we are all supposed to be here.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      I don't like bullies.. Christians pushing their religion, bullies. Keep prayer in the caves..

      I too lived in that area and now am only 5 minutes away. The catholic bishop who so-do-mized me at age 8 lived there.

      November 3, 2013 at 11:13 am |
      • Full disclosure: I'm from Greece NY, but not on in politics

        I'm sorry that was done to you. He must have been a sick person. I hope he got what he deserved

        November 3, 2013 at 11:35 am |
        • ?

          Probably not, few did, not only the church but the police looking the other way. The pig in the school for the blind was buried with full church honors without any punishment, just a comfortable retirement until he died.

          November 3, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  15. Darwin was right

    If humans are gullible enough to believe in MAGIC INVISIBLE CHARACTERS with beards and long hair who live in the sky, then you can't blame 80 MILLION GERMANS for believing the equally nutty idea that they were the MASTER RACE. At least in science, ideas can be tested and rejected if they don't meet strict requirements of the scientific method. In religion, you can invent any and every nutty idea you want, and – as was frequently the case – kill anyone who disagrees with you!

    November 3, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  16. 4biddn

    Religion and government should always be completely separate. there is NO room for religious views within the establishment of government in the USA. I don't understand why it should even be an argument.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Doris

      "Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

      The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State."

      –James Madison, Father of the Consti-tution & the Bill of Rights

      November 3, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It will continue to be an issue as long as it is a successful political strategy for someone to pose as a fervent true believer in God and Jesus Christ, one who will act as a defender of the faith against all challenges, even Constitutional ones.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • wordgirl

      It should be an argument because our government was built on the backbone of religion, and was an integral part of the system we have today. Separating religion and politics is essentially impossible, as one relied on the other to gain notoriety and substance and use and faith in the system. You may not like it, but your founding fathers did, and you'd be hard pressed to argue about it.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:49 am |
      • chubby rain

        Because the majority of our population has been Christian does not mean that it is the backbone of our secular government. Many of the founding fathers were deists and would likely be atheists today if they were made aware of modern science. And the sign of a weak argument is often that it ends in "you'd be hard pressed to argue about it."

        November 3, 2013 at 10:57 am |
      • Joe

        "our government was built on the backbone of religion"

        Oh, I'm sorry wordgirl – wrong answer. Unfortunately, your winnings are back down to zero. But we have some lovely parting gifts for you...

        November 3, 2013 at 10:58 am |
      • ME II

        @wordgirl,
        How is religion an integral part of government today, or ever?

        November 3, 2013 at 11:02 am |
      • lloyd roberts

        Our founding fathers were mostly deist's, believers in divine God, but resentful of organized religion. They detested the Pope, or the Roman Church as it was called at that time and were wary of the influence of the Turkic Church (Islam), and the church of Jerusalem, (Judaism). George Washington, a deist, never used the word God in his public speeches, but referred to Providence as the divine power and force behind all good that happens in this new endeavor. These enlightened Protestant founding fathers were aware of a higher power but disdained organized religion and certainly knew that a new country obsessed with a church would fail.

        November 3, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  17. farly

    Religious groups need to stay out of government or START BEING TAXED like all other lobbyists. It is the tradition of our country that church and State should remain separate. It is only lately that certain party members have desperately created an extreme agenda of reintroducing God into everything. A lot of us are getting tired of dealing with the invisible friend who has no place in matters of governing. Keep it in your private buildings.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      How can religious groups stay out of government when the majority of people are religious?

      November 3, 2013 at 10:43 am |
      • Joe

        It's not about staying out of government. It's about the manner of influence attempted by a religious group.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:56 am |
      • Diana

        The majority are probably religious, but not necessarily Christian. Would you like to hear Muslim, Jewish, or Buddhist prayers? How about a Wicca ceremony? I should also mention Native American or maybe the rosary. Keep your religion to yourself and we will all be happy.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  18. Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

    WOW!!!!! and the christians are complaining of this!!!!!

    Where were their complaints and the demand of accountability for the 10's of thousands of children world wide abused by the catholic hierarchy? And the cover ups by the vatican?

    Guess the children don't matter,,

    November 3, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  19. gsmonroe

    Stupid, Foolish, Atheists... They argue that Atheism is a religion, like not collecting stamps is a hobby... Well, this is a very stupid analogy.... because not only do they "not collect stamps", but their "Hobby" is clearly publicly hating stamp collectors, and lawsuits against the post office for printing stamps that someone just might want to collect.... They are hate filled, intolerant, and foolish.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      atheism is considered a religion under law
      happy?

      November 3, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Doris

      If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

      Ben Franklin (in London, from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772)..

      November 3, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      You'll have to point me toward any quote where an atheists states that their non-belief is a religion. Posting such things does not make them true ... kind of like religion.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Bryant Lister

      You obviously missed the point of the analogy and taken it to extreme nonsense. Your post also had nothing to do with the actual story your are commenting under.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • 1man

      GSmonroe you are ignorant and foolish. Atheism is not a religion. We just choose not to believe in silly fairy tales. If you want to engage in idiotic fantasies do it in your home . Our country was founded on separation of church and state not christianity or any other silly fairy tale.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • NSL

      You stated, "Stupid, Foolish, Atheists. They argue that Atheism is a religion, like not collecting stamps is a hobby"

      Please show evidence for your statement, that atheists are stupid and foolish. Please show evidence that they argue that Atheism is a religion.

      Religion as you know it is a belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe, so in point of fact, you can't do offer evidence that atheists argue that their beliefs is an alternate religion, because Atheism is the absolute denial of the existence of God or any other gods, so it isn't and can't be a religion.

      In fact, your whole statement is at best ignorant of the facts or as I believe it is, a bold faced lie.

      When it comes down to it, you are the hate filled, intolerant, foolish louse you accuse atheists of being.

      Government has no place being in religion in any way whatsoever. There should be no government sponsored prayer of any kind. There should be no government involvement in religion in anyway whatsoever. This country fought a war to in part through off the yoke of religious oppression so many of our original immigrants and founders were fleeing when they left religiously controlled governments in Europe, including but not limited to the cozy relationship of the British Government and the Church of England.

      It isn't just atheists who want this country to finally have freedom of religion, to have the personal beliefs of all its citizens no longer trampled, it is many of the most religious citizens of this country, including devout Christians, who want true religious freedom for themselves.

      If you don't want freedom of religion for yourself and the rest of your fellow citizens, why not return to the Europe of your ancestors where you'll likely fit in just fine where religious oppression continuous to rear its ugly hateful head, or perhaps to one of the arab countries where they really know how to do religious oppression "right."

      Someone in this discussion is hateful, scornful, detestable, odious, offensive, repugnant, contemptuous, disdainful, insulting, disrespectful, and disgusting, and that person is you!

      November 3, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  20. Crosswinds

    It makes you feel like an outcast, these woman said............well, you might as well get used to it........

    ......Matthew 22:13.......
    Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      rather you quoted Bill Mahr, he's far superior and brighter than the writer you quoted.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • bacbik

      Too boring... too much BS... but not too long!

      November 3, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Doris

      "[If] the nature of... government [were] a subordination of the civil to the ecclesiastical power, I [would] consider it as desperate for long years to come. Their steady habits [will] exclude the advances of information, and they [will] seem exactly where they [have always been]. And there [the] clergy will always keep them if they can. [They] will follow the bark of liberty only by the help of a tow-rope." –Thomas Jefferson

      November 3, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • ME II

      @Crosswinds,
      That's right kick out those who don't dress right. Is your God that fashion sensitive?

      November 3, 2013 at 11:08 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.