home
RSS
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. Phil in KC

    Why not just have a moment of silence during which those who want to offer up a prayer may do so and others may use it for quiet reflection? Seems like a simple solution. It seems to me the only people who would object to that are either trying to proselytize or push their own agenda.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      How many beliefs should sit through before a public meeting? Should we allow voodoo rituals then christian prayers followed by a sun blessing followed by blood letting and capped off with the reading of entrails before each public meeting?

      November 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Observer

      Why should there be silence in a meeting? Why should there be prayer in a meeting?

      November 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Tell your boss that you want the company to have a moment of silence to start every business day, or have your school have a moment of silnce to start each class.
      The watsted time adds up.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  2. tat2U

    the difference between religion ans science, if you dont have to believe in science for it to have an impact on your life, and it can be tested by outside sources, also science works the same no matter where you are on earth. cant say that about religion.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • NoProof

      Or like Penn Jillette said: “If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”

      November 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
      • JFCanton

        The actual similarities between religions would suggest that on this topic Jillette doesn't have any more authority than Carrot Top. Or for that matter, the fact that we can't quite untangle scientific understandings from the context in which they were created: cf. eugenic theory, or all of the difficulty that plate tectonics had getting established with very objective scientists.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:39 am |
        • Denise

          Actually the similarities between religons kind of makes his point. Some people had an idea and the next guys took what they liked and added stuff, the next guys took suff from guy number 1 and guy number 2 and added his own, then guy number 4 came along and just made up a completely different religon with just the name of the creator being the same, etc, etc.. That is how the religons came about. Look at the "christmas tree" it had nothing to do with Christianity. Some christians thought the tree inside thing was fun added a star and claimed it was christian. Religons are similar because they all take a basic premise and add what they like.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
        • G to the T

          As someone who's studied comparative religion, I'd be interested to hear what similarities you think there are. In my experience while some of the surface elements may line up, the underlying beliefs are usually VERY different.

          November 6, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
  3. Aaron Harrington

    I will never understand why some atheists have so much trouble with this. To them are these not just simply words? They only serve as a prayer for those who believe. They are not being persecuted for different beliefs, and the city did bring in other religions, but the simple fact of the matter is, there aren't that many available. Why not volunteer as an atheist to open up the meeting? Stop working so hard to cry persecution, when you are in turn persecuting us and trying to take away our rights and freedoms. Believe what you want to believe, just allow me the same.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • mk

      You can believe what you want to believe, just do it on your own time. Why waste time on something that is unnecessary to the actual meeting?

      November 6, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Jake

      It's a public meeting. It should not be opened with a religious message. If you want to speak about religion as a citizen when it's your turn to speak, that's fine. But the structure of the meeting should not include religious prayer.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • tevii

      I think the point is, it can be divisive and is really inappropriate at a town meeting. That's what a church is for.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:20 am |
      • Aaron Harrington

        I can understand that, but if I was reading this article right, it is not part of the structure just something they let happen. When I go to a Catholic wedding, I just stay silent while they do their thing. I just think its a lot of effort over something that has a minimal effect on her life. I read no where in the article where her life was made any harder or she was looked down on.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
        • mike

          if you are at a catholic wedding you are attending a religious ceremony and would expect prayers, rituals, etc. If you are at a city council meeting you are at a government event and should not expect prayers.

          November 6, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Rochester

      If it would bother you that a meeting started with a Quran reading, then you do understand.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:22 am |
      • Aaron Harrington

        Honestly, in my opinion read whatever you want. If I don't like it I don't follow it later. I work with Mormons, Christians, Wiccans, Atheist, Jews, Muslims, and probably more. I hear about their beliefs all the time. Why should I complain about it?

        November 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
        • Joey

          If a Christian gets to pray I would insist on praying to Satan at every meeting. Though, I don't believe in Satan I know this would really make the Christians angry and would therefore be very amusing to me.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  4. JFCanton

    I understand the point of continuing to complain about pushy religious intrusions: though I'd be more inclined to believe that it's truly pushy in the ex-Confederacy than in suburban Rochester. But what is expected to be achieved as an end result? Any private citizen can interject religion into the same meeting and you still have to sit there and listen to it: just not at the beginning of the meeting.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • G to the T

      The end results would be an end to government sanctioned religious observances. If we are to be a diverse society (e pluribus unum) the government must be able to represent everyone. Giving preference to any particular religious view ("in god we trust" for example) runs contrary to that.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  5. Jake

    Here's a simple question for those of you who think it's ok to force people to endure prayers before a government meeting:

    Would you object to opening all government meetings and starting each public school day with a brief, 3 minute reading from the Koran? After all, if you don't like it, you don't have to pay attention. You can tell your children they don't have to say it out loud with the rest of their classmates. If you would have any problem with this, then perhaps you can begin to understand why it's inappropriate and unacceptable to open public government meetings with religious prayer.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Lisa

      How about a choice page or two from one of Dawkins' or Hitchens' books? You think that wouldn't rile a lot of people into doing more than just complain?

      November 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • Jake

        Ironically, extreme Christians seem to hate Muslims more than Atheists.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Really

      I would not mind the Koran and I would probably enjoy Hitchens.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:13 am |
      • tevii

        Your answer is ridiculous and it misses their point entirely. Why risk offending anyone? You certainly cant appeal to everyone other than not catering to any of them

        November 6, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Sure

      I've be ok with that, read Darwin, the Koran or any other as long...I may not believe in other religions or ideas but I don't want to silence them.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  6. Grumpster

    There should be NO prayer before any governmental meeting...state or federal or anything that has one thin time of taxpayer money associated with it in any way. That includes being in a public facility or private if it is in any way funded by the taxpayer. If the church insists on this, then they should be paying taxes so they can say they are having financial input and therefore should have a stake in things. Until then, prayer like this should be abolished with penalties if not followed.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  7. Frank

    Usually people that persistently treat their mental fabrications as reality are under care of a doctor, usually medicated, and often their contact with the rest of society limited or removed because of the danger they pose.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  8. ThinkFirst

    I have a honest question – this is not meant to be sarcastic.
    I watched Michelle Knight's interview yesterday and she repeatedly said that she prayed every day that the chains around her (literally) would unlock. Yet, they never did ... rather she was repeatedly abused and her monstrous capture impregnated her 5 times and then forcibly ended those pregnancies through vicious abuse. If there was ever a true victim, it's this woman (and the other two woman) he held captive and tortured. So, my question is, what good did prayer do her or the five innocent babies he killed??? Why would this horrible tragedy do anything other than make one doubt the power of prayer?

    November 6, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Templeton Prayer Study

      Templeton Foundation Prayer Study:
      Results: In the two groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred
      in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those
      who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% confidence interval 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in
      59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52%
      (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% confidence
      interval 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.

      Percentage of Patients Having Complications After Surgery
      52% – Patients who were receiving prayers and did not know this.
      52% – Patients receiving no prayers and not being told anything about prayers taking place anywhere for anyone.
      59% – Patients knowing they were receiving prayers

      According to this study, we may conclude the following:
      - Praying does not help the patient at all.
      - Telling patients that people are going to pray for them does have an effect, but not a good one.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Grumpster

      Wrong thread there dippy...and prayer doesn't work....how about that Mississippi family of 5 they found dead despite all the praying they did?

      November 6, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Lynda

      She was also at 21 lured by puppies...

      November 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • ThinkFirst

        So ... perceived below-average intelligence makes her less worthy of God's help? I don't understand your point?

        November 6, 2013 at 10:17 am |
      • Wingrider

        I do believe she was lured by puppies at 12 and held captive until she exceeded 21.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Lisa

      Plenty of Christians would say that God did, eventually, get around to answering her prayers. They say that God always answers prayers with either an immediate "yes", "no", or "later". Of course, you can die of old age hoping that a non-yes answer was actually a "later" instead of a flat-out "no". Funny how so few people who believe this stuff don't recognize that any random thing hoped for will either happen right away, happen later, or not at all, just like what they expect from their prayers.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:20 am |
      • ThinkFirst

        Great point! Of course, she suffered hearing loss, nerve damage, vision impairment, forced abortions, irreplaceable years with her son, and unspeakable trauma – but, He got around to helping her? I guess the old adage, "God won't give you anything you can't handle," should make her feel better.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:27 am |
        • Lisa

          And, if it turned out that she couldn't handle it and took her own life instead, I suppose these same Christians would say that she didn't have enough faith and deserved to be punished in Hell? It truly is a convoluted belief system, isn't it?

          November 6, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      Since the prayers didn't work, the faithful will say "God didn't reveal himself for a reason". If the prayers worked, the faithful would say, "Halle-looou-yah! The power of Christ...blah, blah, blah".

      Prayer is like beauty. It's in the eye of the beholder. I'm legally blind in one eye...btw.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  9. grecoss

    majority rules people

    November 6, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Observer

      grecoss,

      Nope. The Consti-tution and our laws rule. Read it.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:05 am |
      • Grumpster

        Yes....it does. Prayer should be abolished in government associated or taxpayer funded (even if only a percentage) events.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:10 am |
        • bootyfunk

          Dear god,
          I thank u for answering my prayers. Take these worthless pieces of dung and burn them fotever.
          Appreciate it

          November 6, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Charm Quark

      The tyranny of a majority is restricted, therefore the Const!tution's Establishment Clause.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Which "majority" is that? You do realize that most people are not Christian and even among Christians they don't all believe the same thing. So, which "majority" rules? The only majority we have is that we are all human and have the same rights. The only way to rule the majority is to eliminate those things that try mightily to divide us into groups. Dividing into groups only serves to subjugate the smaller groups .. even when those smaller groups make up a majority.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Lisa

      Yup, and that's why we had slavery, and white male only voting for so long too. The majority of US citizens also live in urban areas. Does that mean that rural folks should just shut up and take whatever comes down the pipe?

      November 6, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  10. DAMMAD

    Religion does not belong in ANY governmental meetings including congress. The procatice is only pushing someones bielf onto to other. In fact if you wish to pray or preach then go to church or home, but keep it to yourself.

    November 6, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • mk

      As an ex-30-year-Christian, I still don't know this bible story (further strengthening the idea that non-Christians know more about the bible than Christians): wasn't there a story about a guy who was standing outside a gate making a big deal of his praying and Jesus said that it was better to pray in private?

      November 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
      • Rochester

        Mathew 6:6

        November 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
      • Sara

        Yeah

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

        The thing is, though, that this isn't about following thebible but asserting dominance of one's world view.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
      • Tannim

        Yup. But it was a Pharisee in the temple. See related at Mt. 6:5-6.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
      • mk

        I thought I remembered that from my third grade religion class. Thank you, all.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Moonraker

      Religion poisons everything.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  11. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    This atheist is just trying to save your christian souls ... praying is blasphemy since it's telling your God(s) that you don't like what they're doing and you want it changed and have no confidence that Gods plan will work the way you want it.

    November 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Really

      Look you just verbally expressed an opinion using fictional themes that some people didn't want to hear and some did.
      I think it's nice that you could do that.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:10 am |
      • Really

        Okay so technically it was written not verbal. You get my point.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
        • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

          Yes, I get your point and the written vs verbal is not a problem. I also expressed it on a blog post .. not before a public meeting where everyone needs to wait for me to finish. It was very nice 🙂

          November 6, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  12. willard43

    As an atheist myself, I just don't care. I think it's a waste of time to bring this stuff up to the supreme court. I don't believe in any gods, but I respect the rights of others out of simple courtesy. If someone of faith wants to have a moment before a public meeting, fine with me. I won't pray, but I'll respect the rights of those who wish to. I think it's far more detrimental to get into petty squabbles like this...on both sides.

    November 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • tallulah13

      I believe in obeying the law. Prayer at a government-sanctioned event violates the Consttutional separation of church and state. It is right and proper to stop those who put their beliefs over the rights of others.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      I would agree up to an extent. I'm not really all that offended either. But it's just human nature to form cliques, and then outcast those that are not doing what the group does. And especially since they don't work for a church.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      I agree, they can have all the beliefs they want. But they can have that belief outside of a public meeting with no harm done. Say there were 18 council members, each with different beliefs, how many beliefs do we have to sit through before a public meeting? Should we allow voodoo rituals then christian prayers followed by a sun blessing followed by blood letting and capped off with the reading of entrails before each public meeting?

      November 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Gary Tancredi

      excellent response, if only more rational people would chime in this way.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Lisa

      willard43
      If you ever managed to get elected as mayor of your town, which is very doubtful if you're an outed atheist, would you feel comfortable leading Christian prayers at the beginning of your meetings? How about meetings where Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths are also present? Would you be willing to lead Christian prayers with them in attendance?

      November 6, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  13. lol??

    "............Linda Stephens has lived in her upstate New York community for more than three decades and has long been active in civic affairs...................."

    Who wants to be a professional servant forever?? She doesn't like freedom?? What's wrong with this picture?? The PUblic PERKS must be better than the private and that's upside down.

    November 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Tannim

      "Active in civic affairs" doesn't necessarily mean being a government official...

      November 6, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  14. Garrett from Texas

    The Establishment Clause does not grant Freedom FROM Religion, and neither do the bill of Rights. They exist to protect the varying religions from persecution and the placement of prominence of a religion over others.

    The problem with this town is that it tended to lean toward Christians only. It does not have to have someone from every faith perform a prayer. But it should have the option open for someone of every faith, representative of their community, perform the prayer if they wish.

    Equal protection and equal representation, or no prayer at all.

    November 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Tannim

      One cannot have freedom of religion without freedom from religion, because the right to choose a religion also includes the right to choose no religion and the right to be left alone from religion. That is why religious freedom, both from government interaction by the Establishment Clause, and from others by the Free Exercise Clause, are placed in the same First Amendment as their non-religious siblings, Freedoms of Speech and Press et al..

      November 6, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Doris

      Garrett: "The Establishment Clause does not grant Freedom FROM Religion, and neither do the bill of Rights."
      Wrong. Along with the 9th Amendment, the EC does grant a certain degree of Freedom FROM religion. Laws such as what can be done in schools are examples of such application. Rights comes with certain responsibilities to keep people from stepping on each others' toes.

      Garrett: "But it should have the option open for someone of every faith, representative of their community,
      And therefore, no.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  15. NeoKat1

    She doesn't have to pray that dummy!!

    November 6, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • democedes

      Imagine every government meeting beginning with a public denouncement of all deities and you will begin to understand her position.

      November 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
      • Tannim

        Including Reagan, FDR, and Obama? 😛

        November 6, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • bocajim

      yes, but its forced indoctrination and evangelizing. She doesn't want to buy what they are selling. The government is for all people not just Christians hogging the mic. Go pray in church and shut the door. it sound like an infomercial with forced product placement at every even. I also want it off our money and pledge. some nut put it their in 1950.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Jake

      A religious person calling an atheist a dummy...ha! Makes me laugh every time.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  16. Rodeo_Joe

    If you want Religion, go to church.
    But you can't fix a flat tire with a Bible.

    November 6, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • democedes

      ... unless you're MacGyver.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  17. ThinkFirst

    I'm so COMPLETELY sick and tired of hearing people complain! Football uniforms ... Halloween in schools ... prayer at organized meetings ... if you don't like something, then DON"T PARTICIPATE! The world no more revolves around you than it does me – SHUT IT!!!

    November 6, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Lisa

      People are supposed to just stop participating in government?

      Maybe those whinny Founding Fathers should have just stopped complaining about taxation without representation?

      November 6, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • ThinkFirst

        Ok ... I'll help you better understand – don't participate in the activity in which you don't believe. It's quite simple – live and let live.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:05 am |
        • Tannim

          Fine, tell the IRS I don't want to participate in taxation and let us know how that works out for you.

          November 6, 2013 at 10:20 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          Think first...ironic name
          You would have no problem if I sacrifice a live chicken to Quetlcoatl to start a government business session then,,,if you don't like it, don't participate, right?

          November 6, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Jake

      If you don't like religion, don't participate in government? It's idiotic thinking like that which explains why almost no politicians admit to being atheists!

      November 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
      • ThinkFirst

        Ummm ... don't participate in the prayer?! I can't believe I needed to clarify that ...

        November 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
        • Robert Britt

          Don't participate and then you become ostracized. Yeah, that's a great option. Don't have a prayer then people aren't forced into this. I'm surprised I have to explain this.. to someone who ThinkFirst

          November 6, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • mk

      Standing up for rights doesn't necessarily mean complaining. If no one stood up for anything, nothing would change.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
      • ThinkFirst

        The problem in our society is that no one respects anyone's rights. Just because you don't like something doesn't mean you have a right to push others around. Stand by your beliefs, that's certainly respectable – but, there is a point where we become just a bunch of whiners, and I think we're there.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:09 am |
        • Katrina Wogoman

          Separation of Church and State. She is well within her rights to complain.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Jake

      Someone does not under the issue...

      November 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
      • ThinkFirst

        I do understand ... this is a non issue.
        I don't like Chihuahuas, should I make a big stink about how my blood pressure rises every time have to hear one yap? Technically, it's bad for my health. And, I'm an American with rights, so I shouldn't have to walk away when I hear one yapping – they should be banned from all outdoor settings, so I can go anywhere I want without living in fear that I'll have to come in contact with one.
        That would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? But, I bet I could garner support for the idea, if I really wanted to.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
        • Katrina Wogoman

          Your Chihuahua examples proves you understand the situation. There has never been any rights given to you to separate you from Chihuahuas. The forefathers were intelligent enough to understand that combining church and state would cause religious oppression to to those who are not Christian. It's no where near as complicated as it appears.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:11 am |
        • Katrina Wogoman

          Proves you don't understand. I apologize. Trying to work and comment.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • democedes

      You are so sick of the complaining that you had to complain about the complaining.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • ThinkFirst

        Touche! Everything is so politically correct these days ... someone has to point it out.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Observer

      ThinkFirst,

      Yes. Give every religious group equal time in the meeting and ignore the groups you don't agree with. Same for atheistic presentations, right?

      And religious presentations are needed in government meetings because . . . . . . ?

      November 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • mike

      So why should there be organized prayer at govt events? the world doesnt revolve around christians

      November 6, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  18. paco128

    whoever finds God finds life

    November 6, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Jake

      If anyone ever finds a god, we can see what happens then. Until then, keep your ridiculous claims to yourself.

      November 6, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Odo

      Really?

      "Whoever fins Zeus finds life"

      See how ridiculous that sounds?

      November 6, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Please, what is the difference between a person who has "found God" and one who has not .. what is this "life" you speak of other than a self imposed choice to believe in something.

      November 6, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • bocajim

      if you find him, tell him he owes me money.

      November 6, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Tannim

      I'd rather find a Goddess–that'd be the life! 😛

      November 6, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  19. toodark

    "The town of about 94,000 residents counters ..."

    No...the people representing the myth lovers counter.... Way to make it sound like the entire town is unified against the atheists.

    Good for them. Fluff your troll doll hair...salt over the shoulder...knock on wood...black cats...reading chicken entrails...god help us. It's all the same. Believe all the nonsense you like...just don't let it spill over into the real world.

    November 6, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • paco128

      your life would be SO much better.find God and he will bless you

      November 6, 2013 at 9:45 am |
      • democedes

        After all, ignorance is bliss.

        November 6, 2013 at 9:47 am |
      • Odo

        So...bad things never happen to religious people? Logic fail.

        November 6, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • tallulah13

        Yes, tell the all powerful creator of the universe that you like him best and he will give you prizes. Because the all powerful creator of the universe has nothing better to do but obsess over the lives of obscure beings on an obscure planet. Christianity is really an arrogant religion. But then, aren't they all?

        November 6, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  20. CopontheBeat

    Read all these comments - and you will understand why we MUST BAN ALL RELIGIONS FROM OUR GOVERNMENT. Religious beliefs are just that - BELIEFS. They are not based in fact; so they cannot be analyzed using science or reason. Our Government, however, MUST GOVERN USING FACT, SCIENCE, and REASON.

    November 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • ThinkFirst

      In the context of a secular discussion, science can be considered a religion ... Atheism?!

      November 6, 2013 at 9:52 am |
      • Tim

        Baloney. Atheism is certainly not a religion. I do not say that I believe in the non-belief of fairies. I simply state that I do not believe in fairies. Get the difference?

        November 6, 2013 at 9:57 am |
        • ThinkFirst

          "Religion is a clearly defined rules, eschatology and a philosophy by which to live. Religion is a means of understanding our existence." See the similarity?

          November 6, 2013 at 10:34 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          So it is a religion to not believe in Santa Claus, because that is what you are saying...see the ridiculousness?

          November 6, 2013 at 10:36 am |
      • bocajim

        not true. with religion you make up answers to question, and then don’t question them. With science you are always looking for new answers and questioning the ones that have already been answered. With religion belief determines understanding, with science poof and evidence do.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Alissa S.

      Yes and the big bang theory is just that a theory supported by science. Half of which is also based on theories created by men based on science created by men to explain the world. It doesn't mean it's all the truth. It's just another opinion but people don't think that it's crazy that you somehow know that the star your looking at is millions of years away or anything else. Some of science is correct but some of it isn't. The funny part is it's the most fictionalized parts that people use to explain away the bible. If you actually study astrophysics you wouldn't believe all of that bs. I have studied both and have come to the conclusion they are equal in what they provide to their believers but to try and say that the bible is a bunch of fiction and isn't based off science so it's wrong but the pieces of the big bang theory and evolution are, then your incorrect. Plus they have already started disproving parts of Darwin's theory on evolution which is a huge part in the argument against the bible. People take a few Christians and use them to explain the whole and why Christianity is bad but that's like me taking a football coach or two that's a pedaphile and claiming they all are. It's just as biased and hateful to hate and bully someone who is Christian as it is for that person to hate and bully one that is not. I haven't figured out what blinds people to see that trading one form of hate for another is ok. It sounds as if they didn't realize what they had done and tried to fix it but she didn't want any form of Christian prayer involved and choose to take it to the higher courts. The fact that she took the position knowing what happened with prayer and didn't go to the courts then but waited shows that there may be more to it as well. She probably is just overly unhappy period. This does step over that separation line so yes it needs to go but at the same time why is it that everything and everyone is allowed unless your Christian. It's like I can be anything but that and be ok.

      November 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
      • Grumpster

        Big Bang is a theory, yes....but not a HYPOTHESIS which is what everything about creationism, the bible and all that hokey mythic garbage is. There's a difference and you can go look it up since it's out there for everyone to discover who wants to do so. That someone is an atheist must be unhappy? WOW....amazing. I'm one and have a very happy life without the need to cower in fear of burning for an eternity by some judgement happy zealot.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:05 am |
      • doppleganger

        "they have already started disproving parts of Darwin's theory on evolution"

        Who has started, what parts are they disproving and how are they disproving it?

        November 6, 2013 at 10:11 am |
        • bocajim

          Didn't you see the flintstones. that's the source for creationist. Anyways you can disprove of find flaws with a scientific theory and it still have value. Creationist don't even have a theory, they have a religion. so they need to prove God first.

          November 6, 2013 at 10:24 am |
      • bocajim

        Creationism is a religious belief and left to theology. Science is about finding and searching the truth, scientist are still looking, searching. While with religion or creationism feel they have the answer (God). The weakness of creationism is the hubris we know all the answers because we made up a god to fill in the blanks of the unknown.

        November 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
      • democedes

        The fact you don't know the difference between a "theory" (common usage) and a scientific theory calls your science cred into question. "It's just a theory" is a red flag for general ignorance of science.

        The difference between science and religion is that science corrects itself when it gets it wrong. Scientists love it when data does not agree with established theory. It fascinates them. It is another mystery to solve. And a scientist is not afraid to answer a question with "we don't know".

        Religion, on the other hand, hates being questioned, and does not change unless it is forced to. Religion has answers to all questions you could ask. So, why would they seek out truth?

        November 6, 2013 at 10:43 am |
      • mary c

        It's simple: The original unofficial motto for the US was E pluribus unum (out of many one) from the Great Seal of the United States in 1782

        "In God we trust" was made the motto in 1956

        I prefer what they had back in the Founding era than what they went with in the 50's, an era where slavery was adored and sanctioned by god, if the Bible is to be believed; interracial marriages were a NO, and god did say so; and women, though having secured some rights, were still second-class citizens–which of course pleased god. In god we trust should be a personal motto and should not be forced on anyone...certainly not in public activities. Why should Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Wiccans, atheists, agnostics, devil-worshippers, ancient alien theorists, not have their say too?

        November 6, 2013 at 10:44 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43
Advertisement
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.