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. David

    Why do conservative Christians have to pray at public events? Could they pray at home right before they go? Could they pray in their car as they drive there? Could they pray individually once they are there? Why do they insist on an organized prayer when they have an infinite number of opportunities to pray throughtout the day?

    Will a conservative Christian answer these questions?

    And as far as all of these comments about hoping Atheists burn in hell, how they would wish they could see the Atheist stand before God in judgement, etc. There you have conservative Christianity in a nutshell. It's anger and hate, not love. That's not a religion I would want to follow.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • no one

      ^^THIS

      November 6, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Especially seeing as how the Bible states that Jesus was clearly against this sort of prayer.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:34 am |
      • Robert Brown

        He is against prayer for the purpose of bringing glory to the person saying the prayer.

        November 6, 2013 at 11:38 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Exactly. That's the whole point of public prayer.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Robert Brown

      By acknowledging the power and presence of God in a public setting we are witnessing to those within earshot that there is a God. God may use something said to touch the heart of someone in attendance.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:37 am |
      • sybaris

        Which god?

        November 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
      • Madtown

        we are witnessing to those within earshot that there is a God
        ----
        And, you are NOT following a request and teaching of Jesus.

        November 6, 2013 at 11:56 am |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        And how does one differentiate that from

        "He is against prayer for the purpose of bringing glory to the person saying the prayer." (your words).

        It is a subjective position you have taken and as such you should not want public prayer at all just to be sure there is no offense to your god right?

        November 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  2. deathwombat

    "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."

    The first time they invite a Satanist who comes in and says, "Dear Satan, please destroy the USA and bring all Americans to be with you in Hell", that will probably be the end of the "anyone can pray" policy.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Manchester United fan

      Or a Voodoo man, Begging the Obiah Man for help to pass to the other side, along with all the citizens of Greece

      November 6, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Mary

      LOL!

      November 6, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  3. My Dog is a jealous Dog

    One issue missing from this discussion is the chilling effect of an opening prayer on the actual legislative process. What if a vote on zoning for a strip club, or whether liquor sales will be allowed on Sundays. I think that Tea Party folks that would ideologically vote for economic and personal freedom may be influenced by an opening prayer. If you feel the need to pray, do it in private before the meeting.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      Very good point.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Sara

      Yes, this kind of priming has been tested and does influence decisions.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  4. Dyslexic doG

    If I was powerful enough to create the universe I wouldn't be so insecure and narcissistic that I would need people constantly praying to me or adoring me. Oh, and I wouldn't need your money either!

    that's the difference between me and your god.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      I find it interesting that we haven't even pimped out our own solar system, YET....... we can have a personal relationship with the creator of reality. Talk about jumping a few steps..... geez.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Robert Brown

      As your handle indicates, you got that backwards. We need to pray and adore him, he doesn’t need. You are ok on the second one, he doesn’t need our money, everything already belongs to him.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:33 am |
      • AverageJoe76

        But we're constantly urged to praise God. From the word of God in the Bible. So since God says "Praise me", I think that's a definite "need" on his part. DD wasn't backwards at all.

        November 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
      • sybaris

        Nothing fails like prayer

        November 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Lionly Lamb

      So... dyslexic much..?

      November 6, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  5. john

    great news! allahuakabr!!!

    November 6, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  6. xirume

    "We accept anyone who wants to come in and volunteer to give the prayer to open up our town meetings." Be you a million big macs they wouldn't let a Satanist pray to Satan. Typical christian hypocrisy.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • matt

      if prayer is denied in govt facilities, shouldn't then also signs of religion also be removed?
      like crosses, stars, burkas, etc?
      either allow everyone to represent their religion (not practical or feasible regardless of how well intentioned), or disallow it completely (which would be horribly wrong to deny a part of our beliefs to not guide how we believe we should be governed..
      there is no perfect solution for either side, but trying to legislate a solution in the middle is just kicking the can to the next generation.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  7. sybaris

    Don't pray in my courthouse and I won't think in your church

    November 6, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      LOLOL

      November 6, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  8. robertholt

    I’m surprised that someone would care
    if someone else says a prayer.
    As long as they don’t have to pray,
    why do they care what others say?
    Thought their numbers are very small,
    they try to impose their will upon all.
    But oh, will they feel awfully odd
    when they finally have to stand before God.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • sybaris

      which god?

      November 6, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Let's have a Catholic Mass before every gov't meeting. That would be ok with you right?

      November 6, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      that's the problem, nobody cares unless the prayer is imposed on them
      you're confused about who is imposing what on whom

      November 6, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  9. Nick

    Hope the athiests lose. Saying a prayer at a public forum doesn't mean the body in session endorses anything – if that were the case then anytime you are standing around someone drinking a beer you must endorse beer, and that's a ludicrous assumption. Also, the First Amendment prohibits CONGRESS from establishing a state religion – it does not stipulate what state and local government do in this regard.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Billy

      It was already ruled on in the case of generic prayer in schools, so I don't see how this is any different.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Uh Oh, this could be interesting.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:23 am |
      • armageddon

        I AM A TRUE GENIUS

        November 6, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Respond to mental illness?

      Yea...I guess this reply to your idiotic analogy means I endorse idiotic analogies.. .

      November 6, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      Can lawmakers bring up their fantasy football stats during sessions? Should we pay them to trade players while on the state's dime?
      Or how about trading cards? Or can we hire a shaman to give us a blessing on next year's harvest during a session?

      November 6, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Sara

      That would be a similar case if someone were standing to the side as the meeting progressed quietly saying a prayer. Otherwise it's the same as stopping the meeting for several minutes to forcibly pour beer into the moths of the attendees.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Brian

      I just have to ask. Is your interpretation of the Second Ammendment as broad as your interpretation of the First? Why is it that the same people who typically scream about the Second Ammendment want to ignore the First so much?

      November 6, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Dave

      Why is the prayer necessary at a civic, government related meeting at all? The Supreme Court should side with the Plantiff.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Jmo

      The First Amendment (and all the others) originally applied only to the Federal government. That changed with the passage of the 14th Amendment at the conclusion of the Civil War. Thereafter, the Supreme Court began the process of selectively applying the various amendments to the states. Virtually all now apply to the states as well as the Federal government.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • David

      So why do conservative Christians require public prayer? Deep down, they are insecure in their beliefs, so by forcing their beliefs on others, it creates a "safety in numbers" mentality.

      Maybe it is time for admit what we all already know, but it is not politically correct to say in this country. Conservative Christians are bullies, plain and simple.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  10. sly

    Kinda a slam dunk win for this brave woman – obviously it is un-American to mix church and state.

    Religious people can pray all they want – we have plenty of churches. But when we are trying to govern, keep the personal opinions out of it. How would we like it if prior to each Congress all the members don a Red Sox hat and sing Sweet Caroline? I'm sure some in Boston would like it, and most of the rest of us would feel nautious.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Jmo

      You would think this is a slam dunk, but religion is so pervasive in government (take a look at your currency, and note also that Congress opens its sessions with prayer) that this will be anything but a slam dunk.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  11. dylncox

    @Jake

    Ahh – if human's say evolution is real than it must be!

    Let us bow down to these geniuses that can unravel mankind's history but somehow don't know what causes migraines.

    If that's the scientist you are believing, than you should probably rethink your religious viewpoint.

    I mean seriously, how does a scientist that's probably no older than you hold "facts" of what happens "billions" of years ago. How did they come to the conclusion of the Earth's age? Did they hold up a rock and a remote control to a TV and say, this rock is definitely older... then compare the rock to an 8-track cassette; yep again, this rock is older – until they were able to go as far back with worldly possessions, that they just came to the conclusion that the rock HAS to be at least 2 billion years old..

    Those scientists are definitely geniuses.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Katrina Wogoman

      You didn't get much science education in school, did you? Your comment is really sad.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Rochester

      Yet another example of how horrid our education system is.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • deanq

      You are a complete moron.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • no one

      Dafuq I just read??!?

      November 6, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • David

      Oh my, I am so embarrassed for you.

      Is your next post, "Gravity is an invention of scientists. I don't believe in it and I will not accept it. In fact, to prove my point, I will step off of this cliff and . . . "

      November 6, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • SJ

      Don't bother checking facts. Wild, unsupported claims work better at exposing and vilifying nutjobs like you.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Ben

      Dylan Cox: I can't understand science therefore nobody can!

      November 6, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • grist

      Your post betrays your ignorance. And, we do understand migraine (I am a neurologist).

      November 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Scott

      Ah, yes, spoken from your pedestal as you employ technologies and conveniences in life that are a DIRECT RESULT of the scientific method and engineering.

      “The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson

      November 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
      • Laura

        One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people. Excellent comment.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • krankenstein111

      It has something to do with radioactive decay and half lives. You should have at least gone to the class after you smoked your weed.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Madtown

      if human's say evolution is real than it must be!
      ----
      Or how 'bout this?: "if humans say the bible is the Word of God, then it must be!"

      November 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Laura

      This is exactly the type of ignorance that religion thrives on. Just because you do not know how something works does not mean "God did it". Refusing to learn about science because you fear it will question your opinion is worse than ignorance. By doing such a thing you have decided to remain willfully ignorant and your opinion should not hold weight in this discussion. You are also getting a very important point confused – just because scientists don't know everything, does not mean they know nothing. By saying that scientists cannot possibly be correct about the age of the earth simply because they have not figured out all of the complex causes of a migraine is absolutely ridiculous. The greatest thing about science, though, is that they will keep trying to figure it out, instead of just trying to pray it away.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  12. Ron

    II pesonally don't have a problem with a prayer to start a meeting, but what would all these folks be saying if it was an Mulla up there saying Aulla Akbar. I would be willing to bet they would either 1 all walk out or 2 drag him out from the meeting. Everyone says prayer should not be a big deal and it is what the country was founded on unless it is from a faith they do not ascribe to. Then they say they country is falling apart, and we need to take our guns and head to the hills to save us from the Muslims.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Billy

      "Everyone says prayer should not be a big deal and it is what the country was founded on unless it is from a faith they do not ascribe to."

      What?

      So you're already in the hills, I take it....

      November 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  13. armageddon

    Jerusalem is God’s heartbeat and it is being prepared as the Great King’s eternal habitation. There will be no peace in the world until Jesus comes down from heaven to rule and reign in the New Jerusalem.

    “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”

    November 6, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Amen

      November 6, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Well Duh

      Harry has finally come of age, and finally started on his final journey to defeat Voldemort for good. The Dursely’s are forced to go into hiding so that Voldemort’s Death Eaters will not torture them for information, and Harry sets off with Ron and Hermione on a difficult quest to find and destroy the last of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. Only once those have been destroyed, Harry knows, can Voldemort truly be killed.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:15 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        Amen

        November 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Math is God

      Oh, stuff a sock in it.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      Can you picture that happening? I can't. Terminator's scenario sounds more feasible. I bet if it was the case, you faithfuls will find a way to put a square in a round hole.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Sashatree

      You're free to believe whatever fairy tale you want. But you're not free to impose/expose your religious views within the realm of PUBLIC GOVERNANCE!! NO RELIGION WHATSOEVER IN POLITICS!! WE ARE A SECULAR NATION!!!!!

      November 6, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Mohammed

      Allah Ahkbar

      November 6, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  14. HotAirAce

    Let' us pray. . .

    You are attending a town council meeting to ask them to modify a zoning regulation so that you can open a group home for female victims of domestic violence and their children under the age of six.

    You must be present at the start of the meeting because there will be a number of agenda items of varying and uncertain lengths – the council cannot tell you exactly when you will be presenting.

    If you are not present when you are called upon, you may not get another chance to make your request for some time.

    They open the proceedings with a religious ritual but you do not participate as that would be counter to your beliefs. Members of council openly glare at you as a result.

    Are you confident that you will be treated fairly when you make your request?

    Why should citizens or legislators expose, implicitly or explicitly, their religious beliefs as part of doing government business, unless that is their individual wish?

    What is wrong with "no religion in government ever"?

    November 6, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      well said!

      November 6, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Pavman2473

      If everyone is praying, how can they glare at those that aren't? It makes no sense. What harm is it doing to the atheist anyway?

      November 6, 2013 at 11:22 am |
      • HotAirAce

        Who said anything about a specific cult's ritual? Does every cult require the participants to close their eyes during every ritual? Why do you believe the person in the above scenario is an atheist? Can't you see that anyone might be harmed if their religious beliefs become known?

        November 6, 2013 at 11:29 am |
        • HotAirAce

          I guess pavman is still working getting his head out of his azz. . .

          November 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Chris

      Amen.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Sara

      Precisely.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  15. jeff

    I wonder how these board meetings would go if they began each one by praising Allah?

    Everyone thinks their pretend god is the best god.

    November 6, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Chris

      Amen.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Bruce McClure

      Or maybe a slaughtered goat to bless the proceedings.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  16. Live4Him

    @Live4Him : Then would you agree that evidence AGAINST evolution be taught in schools too? Should the fact of dino soft tissue be taught in public schools to support a young earth?
    @Art : There is NO evidence against evolution.

    Again, dino soft tissue falsifies the millions of years needed for evolution to occur, by placing a 10,000 year limit since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Should this be taught in public schools?

    November 6, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Chris m

      "Again, dino soft tissue falsifies the millions of years needed for evolution to occur,"

      It certainly does not. You need to read the paper about them online. The person who discovered it is a Methodist.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Madtown

      dino soft tissue falsifies the millions of years needed for evolution to occur
      -----
      Massive idiotic fail.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Mark

      Except you have been given the information that has blown your theory time and again, and because you choose not to believe it, your opinion stands? You're rather tiring to keep repeating this same thing.
      And, no, I am not going to post all of the arguments again, except to say or wasn't soft tissue, it was a bacterial change.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Doris

      "would you agree that evidence AGAINST evolution be taught in schools too?"

      You're just being silly again I see. I'm sure that educators strive to teach the latest that science has to offer on any subject. What else would you have them do?

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

      If there were data to suggest that evolution was wrong, then it should certainly be presented to our students. However, there is no data available that contradicts evolution. If you have some that you think refutes evolution, then let us debate it. It is not a debate among scientists. Scientist are interested in researching subtle issues of how evolution takes place not whether it is true. It is as true as the theory of gravity.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Charm Quark

      Lie4Him
      The scientist that made the discovery has said young earthers are twisting her research to suit their purpose, lying for jesus again, pitiful and stupid.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Fan2C

      Live4Him,

      Re: dino tissue

      Posting this AGAIN time for you:

      "Creation magazine claimed that Schweitzer’s research was “powerful testimony against the whole idea of dinosaurs living millions of years ago. It speaks volumes for the Bible’s account of a recent creation.”

      This drives Schweitzer crazy. Geologists have established that the Hell Creek Formation, where B. rex was found, is 68 million years old, and so are the bones buried in it. She’s horrified that some Christians accuse her of hiding the true meaning of her data. “They treat you really bad,” she says. “They twist your words and they manipulate your data.”

      Schweitzer’s research has been hijacked by “young earth” creationists, who insist that dinosaur soft tissue couldn’t possibly survive millions of years. They claim her discoveries support their belief, based on their interpretation of Genesis, that the earth is only a few thousand years old. Of course, it’s not unusual for a paleontologist to differ with creationists. But when creationists misrepresent Schweitzer’s data, she takes it personally: she describes herself as “a complete and total Christian.”

      http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dinosaur.html?c=y&page=1

      November 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  17. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

    Jesus H Christ, could everybody please stop seriously responding to the obvious trolling? It's clearly just the same guy. Remember, these people feed off of negative attention. Just give them a wink and let them know that you understand their game.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I think that plays right into their hands Dave, they want to fillabuster people into silence.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:07 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        I doubt that. You seem to believe that trolls have some sort of agenda. Some undoubtedly do but most don't. I'd be fairly certain that the trolls here denouncing atheism have no serious religious affiliation. I'd bet a fair few of them are atheists. They only do what they do to feed their egos and to annoy people. The last thing a troll wants is silence. They get off on negative attention. And let's face it, most atheists here are only too happy to feed them their attention.

        November 6, 2013 at 11:13 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          I don't think there are as many trolls as you claim. There are a few, they are easy to spot and I rarely respond to them. But if I do it is my choice, not yours. You don't get to decide how to deal with them.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:17 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          OK, keep your panties on, I'm not trying to make your decisions. I'm merely pointing out that serious and emotional responses to their trolling only strengthens their resolve.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:22 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          I think it is funny you think they are all the same person. Some I can agree with you on. (lol??, faith, heavensent, live4him and such probably are just 2 or 3 people). But I don't think they are atheist trolls, they would have gotten bored by now. They are trolls, but they are believers, and they spout the same BS I deal with from real people OFF the internet most every week. Their arguments and ramblings are real so dealing with them is not a waste.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:33 am |
        • Sara

          I would consider LOL?? and faith trolls...not so much the other two. And the likes of Topher and Bill Deacon I think are sincere. And Chad. Whatever happened to Chad?

          November 6, 2013 at 11:36 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Maybe you're right. I just find some of the stuff they say soooo ridiculous that I find it hard to believe that people sincerely believe this kind of guff, so I automatically believe that they are trolls. I tend not to move in circles that contain many religious people, so I often forget that a huge percentage of the population are fundamentalists.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          My wife works with 2-3 people who actually say and believe what some of the worst offenders have said, I have family members that believe the same garbage. I understand though it is hard to believe they actually exist....it is a bit minboggling.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:57 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Sara,

          I gaurentee Bill Deacon is for real, he is so Catholic it hurts (I am a recovering Catholic). Topher I am sure is also sincere. Actually I think most of these people are sincere as well but anyone who "throws barbs" with no intention of having a real discussion I put in the catagory of "troll"...even if I think they are sincere. I think lol?? is a perfect example.

          November 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  18. Doris

    James Madison, "Father of the Constitution" and Bill of Rights:

    "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."

    Madison as president vetoed two bills that he believed would violate the separation of church and state.
    He also 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.)

    Thomas Jefferson:

    "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

    John Adams & the U.S. Senate:

    "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;"

    (from the Treaty of Tripoli signed by President John Adams and with unanimous ratification of the U.S. Senate, 1797)

    November 6, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  19. Dean

    Wondering how so many people can get upset at something they don't believe exists. I don't like cabbage but I don't file a suit to have it removed from all stores or boycott the Ritz when it is on the menu.. I just ignore it.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Billy

      I'm sure that was the view by some when people were trying to get Bible readings removed from public schools. The wall of separation can also be torn down by termites if you let them at it enough.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      So should the cabbage industry be able to plug their product at the beginning of gov't meetings?

      The point isn't that we don't respect religion (we don't), the point is that is not the time or the place for that message.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • Jackson

      The cabbage industry isn't telling you you will go to hell unless you denounce brussel sprouts and accept cabbage as your savior.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Denise

      Why do they need prayer at town meetings? It is silly to get all up in arms over someone asking them not to pray. If you want to pray do it privatly or go to church.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Al

      Dean, you make a good point, however cabbage has never been responsible for tyranny of the mind. I'm a Christian, but matters of faith are deeply personal to me; they are matters of life and death, and why we are here. Too deep for city council meetings, etc. I've been stationed in places where religion has infiltrated government; theocracy sucks!

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

      And what if you were required to eat it before you were allowed to eat what you ordered? Would you be so accepting of cabbage being served?

      November 6, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Quiet

      Dean
      The prayer at the beginning of the meeting is being forced upon all whom have come to do business. If the Ritz forced you to eat the cabbage before they would serve you, then you would have a different opinion. Before you say "then I wouldn't go to the Ritz" remember, there isn't an alternative to the town meeting if that is where your business must be done.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  20. lisaleev

    I had a college professor put this in perspective for me. First he asked how many people thought there should be prayer in school. This was in Texas so a majority of the class raised their hands. He said ok and that we would say a prayer before class. Everyone was excited, until he started the prayer, "Hail Mary full of grace..." he didn't get through the first part until people were booing and they just about lynched the guy. Well, that was just today's he said, I have lots more. How many people still want prayer in school. Not a soul raised their hand.

    November 6, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Mark

      Now see, that's a wise teacher.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Lucky he didn't kneel down on his prayer mat and praise Allah.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • MariaErics

      Great story! I have nothing against prayer, but to be inclusive, it has to have references removed that claim it to be a prayer espousing a particular religion. The separation of church and state was based on logic and a deep understanding of human nature.....as Judge Calabrese stated in his brief, it is very difficult for the devoutly religious to avoid straying from a basic prayer to proselytizing, which is very offensive to those of us who do not share the prayer-giver's religion.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:06 am |
      • Mark

        What amuses me is that he uses a Christian prayer, albeit a Catholic one, and the class booed...and they had no say in what prayer was going to be said....yeah. Exactly.

        November 6, 2013 at 11:21 am |
      • Sara

        There's no such thing as a prayer that doesn't espouse one or a subset of religions. Some religions don't even have prayer.

        November 6, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Robert Brown

      You’ve pretty well explained the modern thinking on the subject. I was talking to my grandmother one day and she was bemoaning the loss of teaching the bible in school, leading to school tragedies and moral decay of our society. I told her I understood, but I wouldn’t want someone teaching my kids another religion. When she was in school, they were smaller and more community oriented. Most kids in the school likely went to the same church. The church may have used the school building or vice versa. The increasing diversity of our population would cause someone to be offended now. For those who can afford the tuition, there are private religious schools.

      November 6, 2013 at 11:10 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        GIVE it a booby brown. u r done.

        November 6, 2013 at 11:36 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Imitation is a form of flattery.

          November 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Steve

      I'm not Christian, so I think I missed something in this story. I don't understand, why would they boo that prayer? Is it that a Hail Mary is mostly a Catholic prayer, and Texans are usually of some other Christian faction?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • thecouvs

      I don't understand why they were booing the Hail Mary. I thought there were a lot of catholics in Texas. Am I wrong? Someone please let me know.
      Thanks

      November 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
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.