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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. Just the Facts Ma'am...

    The best way for me to describe the role of religion and government is this: Imagine a doctor who has trained for years at medical school. That same doctor is also very religious. In one human you can have the medical knowledge and also have faith. Now when the doctor has a sick patient before him he must use his medical knowledge to the best of his ability to heal and to follow his hypocratic oath to do no harm. He may also say a silent prayer if he wishes while operating. What he must never do is supplant his medical knowledge with his faith and decide "I will just pray really hard for this persons health and have faith in my God he will be made well" for that would be breaking his oath and be pushing his faith on the patient.

    With governance our elected officials should be using their education to help or local, State and Federal governments work more efficiantly for everyone, and while saying a silent prayer while you work is just fine, to try and supplant your actual education with faith by making choices for others based on your religious beliefs you are tearing this nation apart and abandoning reason.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Well said.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Yup!

      November 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      What I got out of that was that the medical knowledge and training that the doctor worked very hard to acquire was very useful and the faith was completely useless.

      Seems about right to me.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  2. democedes

    Is it really too much to ask to have a government meeting without people waiving their crosses around? I mean seriously, can you go for 30 minutes without talking about God and Jesus? Is that going to kill you?

    November 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • postedbygeorge

      no, this is middle eastern extremist religion's philosophy, those who don't believe their way are the ones who die. very unamerican.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  3. sybaris

    A lack of belief in any god or religion is the default position.

    Atheists.....keeping it clean since birth.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Sharky

      LOL yeah that is incorrect. From birth you don't know anything period, you don't learn until you get older. So no NO ONE is an Atheist from birth.

      Good grief.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
      • sybaris

        Obviously you are unfamiliar with implicit vs explicit atheism...........good grief

        November 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
      • Just the Facts Ma'am...

        Does a person at birth believe in God? If not then they are an atheist. The God theory is an indoctrinated and learned behavior and can be likened to a communicable disease where those born in certain areas are infected by a specific strain at very early ages. Much like some forms of mad cow disease this religious indoctrination has been known to permanantly damage the reasoning centers of the brain allowing for those indoctrinated to believe wildly false things about our universe.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
        • Isaac

          You're going to be real effective in your arguments when you start comparing Religion to Mad Cow disease.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          Organized religion, commonly known as brain fiction (BF), is a fatal neurodegenerative disease in sheeple that causes a spongy degeneration in the logic centers of the brain. BF has a short indoctrination period, about 5 to 8 years, usually affecting young sheeple at a peak age of youth during which they believe whatever they are being told, all races being equally susceptible.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
      • Joe Ma

        By the same token christianity says we're all sinners at birth. Care to comment on that one?? Somehow a child who hasn't learned anything yet is a sinner... that's convenient, especially when when you need more and more members to pay the church's way.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          What is even funnier is that their premise for why a child is born into sin is based on the Genesis myth of Adam and Eve which has been completely debunked by the fossil record and our DNA which shows we did not descend from a single pair of pre-made humans and actually interbred with both neanderthals and denisovians nearly 30,000 years before the events in the bible supposedly happened. So when you throw out the Adam and Eve sin as the fiction it is you also get rid of inborn sin and the need for a redeemer and their whole religion falls on its deranged face.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  4. lol??

    Anyone holding elective office needs their voting rights suspended until the conclusion of their terms. Otherwise they have a divided loyalty.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  5. MARCI

    ONLY AN IMBECILE WOULDN'T BELIEVE IN GOD.TAKE A LOOK AROUND YOU,

    November 6, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      😉

      November 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I did....don't see any gods....therefore no reason to believe one exists.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Maddy

      Only an idiot types in all caps, thinking it's more powerful.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
      • Imagine

        Well said Maddy.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • democedes

      *looks around* Nope. Still no god here.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • sybaris

      which god?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • J Gaston

      Which god? Ra? Zues? Allah? Are you a fool for not believing in them?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
      • Zeus

        If you think that you are protected from me by spelling my name wrong (Zues), watch out for thunderbolts!

        November 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Chris Angel

      ONLY AN IMBECILE WOULDN'T BELIEVE IN MY MAGIC.TAKE A LOOK AROUND ME, SEE ANY STRINGS?

      audience: "There's a string!"

      STOP LOOKING AT THAT STRING, THAT ISN'T WHAT I MEANT, DO YOU SEE ANY CARDS UP MY SLEEVES?

      audience: "Look, there are cards up his sleeves, I can see them right there..."

      STOP, DON'T LOOK AT MY SLEEVES, UM, LOOK AT ME AS I DISAPEAR! POOF!

      audience: "We see you under the stage, you just fell through a trap door..."

      NOPE, NO I DIDN'T, I'M REAL MAGIC DAMNIT! STOP LOOKING AT ME!

      November 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  6. edwardst35

    What happens when anti matter meets matter? Interesting question. The real question is....WHAT or WHOM created anything from the beginning? The huge void. WHOM or WHAT created it? What came first, the chicken or the egg? Creation and the beginning is kind of mind boggling. When did ANYTHING really begin? Science does not seem to know. They assume. When I reach for a door knob is it there or am I simply assuming it is there and therefore it is created for me to grab and turn so I may open a door? Seems to me all of these arguments for and against religion are all simply ASSUMPTIONS.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Science accepts its current limitations. Religion doesn't.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
      • Sharky

        No science does not accept its current limitations. If that were true scientists would not keep trying.

        Religion? Religion like science is all people based. What limitations does religion not accept?

        And before you go nuts, my background IS science.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I have no idea what you're talking about.

          November 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Accepting current limitations – being able to say "we don't know" – in no way means "that's it, we're done" or in the extreme case saying "some (unproven) god must have done it."

          November 6, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • ?

      Except the creation of the gods and the morphing into religions is all about imagination and assumptions. So many creation myths and so many gods can they all exist outside their story books, why not, Dionysus rocks.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Charm Quark

      Ed... I wasn't going to bother with you but....You do not seem to understand how science works. For example someone proposes a theory, lets take the Higgs boson, Higgs theorised that the standard model would require a particle that was needed to provide mass, that was in 1964 and it was not proven/discovered until this year as a proven theory;we can now state that the Higgs boson exists. Religions on the other hand just make unproven claims based on ancient stories and with Christianity zero reliable proof has ever been produced, just myth and the supernatural, that is a large fail that has been going on for 2000 years.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Sara

      Edward,

      "Science does not seem to know. They assume."

      What is it you believe science assumes.

      November 7, 2013 at 6:51 am |
  7. BkHenz86

    So Jesus created man and woman with original sin. Then destroyed most of them for sinning. Then impregnated a woman with himself as her child, so that he could be born. Later, he will kill himself as a sacrifice to himself to save all of us from the sin he gave us in the first place.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  8. nornoel

    Prayers at school board meetings? That is the height of absurdity. I can scarcely think of anything more appropriate. Communal prayers have a good place – in the church congregation. Moreover, individuals can engage in personal prayer at any time simply by thinking about them (presumably, their god doesn't rely on vocalized prayers, being omniscient and all). Or individuals can simply perform their own prayer rituals before/after the school board meetings. Regardless of whether one is a believer, there is a time, place, and appropriate method for everything. This issue should never have arisen.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • nornoel

      Excuse me, that would be "less appropriate."

      November 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Surely you mean 'more INappropriate'?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Whoa, you already corrected it.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • willc1981

      these prayers do not oppress anyone's rights and are not inappropriate. the only thing inappropriate is an atheists need to force others to not practice or express their religious beliefs. Atheists need to get over themselves. If you choose to not have any spiritual belief that is fine. but the need to make everyone else not believe is absurd. many of the people that say they don't believe in God are really just angry w/ God. it is very sad. i will pray and hope all these blind will see one day. oh i bet they love that part.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
      • Ann

        It is "oppressing my rights" if I am expected to waste time waiting for you to complete your stupid ritual so that we can get to the business of the meeting. It is also discriminatory if I am subjected to scorn for not joining in.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        willc1981
        So you think it is appropriate if I sacrifice a goat to Zeus at a government meeting? You think that is the time and place for a religious show?

        Why can't you pray BEFORE you attend the meeting, then we can get down to business.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
        • willc1981

          no i don't think murdering animals in front of everyone would be productive. but if a respected moralistic leader wants to give a quick speech about something moralistic and encouraging.....who cares. taking this crap to court is a joke. if a couple of devil worshipers or atheists want to squirm in their seats.....who cares.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          clearly many people care, since it has made its way to scotus....the better question is why should anyone care about YOUR opinion?

          November 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
        • willc1981

          does it take people caring? or just determined lawyers?

          November 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
      • Sara

        "many of the people that say they don't believe in God are really just angry w/ God"

        It's nice when they raise one of these delusional zealot flags and you know not to bother with rational discourse.

        November 6, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
        • willc1981

          yes time and again i hear there is no God because something wrong in the world.....

          November 6, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
        • Sara

          Citing a bad thing in the world as evidence that gods (or certain gids) don't exist is not the same as being angry at god. It is you who are imposing that emotional orientation on people. As almost anyone will point out, you can't be mad at a god you don't believe in. It's like being angry at the leprechaun you don't believe in for failing to deliver gold. Are you angry at leprechauns?

          November 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
  9. Gabriel

    I love it when religious fanatics (what else can you call them?) refer to "their" type of people as "God-fearing". This says a lot about the kind of God and religion they believe in!

    November 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Sharky

      It actually says they fear the wrath of god for not doing the proper things, and fear the wrath of god for being immoral or sinner ergo they fear god. Otherwise if they are without sin, then there is not as much to fear.

      You really don't analyze things well do you.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        Really don't think your "context" changes anything Sharkey. Why is "unbelief" a crime that one should fear being punished for? Having a "relationship" with the god of the bible is an abusive one. Look at the signs.

        – Monitors what you're doing all the time
        – Decides things for you that you should be allowed to decide (like what to wear or eat)
        – Threatens to hurt you, or your children if you don’t love him
        – Blames you for his or her violent outbursts or shortcomings
        -Being se.xually controlling
        – You have an impending sense of consequence that will come if you don't "obey."
        -Tells you that you are “nothing” without him and you don’t deserve his love

        November 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  10. Lionly Lamb

    God is what many people believe... Some believe positively and some negatively while many give God no second look...

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

      I have no idea what that means.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  11. IT IS ALL GOOD AND GOD IS AT THE END

    No one should have to be excluded...cut the prayer.

    Let those who want to pray..pray before and after the meetings ..silently.

    Check out what is going on in Medjugorje. Then you will understand the times we are in. peace to all.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      The Medjugorje tourist board is up there with the guys who invented the Loch Ness Monster.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • nornoel

      Well said.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  12. Randy

    The lesson is: Atheists can share their beliefs (yes, they have beliefs) anywhere and anytime, in schools, in government meetings, and on any public property and in any forum, but Christians cannot and should not reveal their beliefs-no matter how generally or how brief-in public because those beliefs are allegedly offensive (can we spell "hypersensitive" and "hypocritical") to some. And by the way, neither the word "wall" nor the word "separation" appear in the First Amendment. Those words were imposed on the text much later as a matter of interpretation.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • FactCheck

      That interpretation is absolutely and totally ludicrous.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
      • Sharky

        Actually it is rather correct.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Dave

      Did I miss the part where the town set aside time during town meetings for atheists to express their beliefs? You seem to be suggesting that this happens all the time. It certainly did not in this case. I don't think you know what you're talking about.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Sara

      Are you saying you think atheists are asking to be allowed to get up and talk about their lack of belief in god before town meetings? Really? I seriously do want to know if you actually believe that?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • willc1981

        um i believe atheists are going to supreme court to talk about their lack of faith....yes and how their non-belief needs to be protected.

        November 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
        • Sara

          To talk about their rights in court, not their lack of faith in a town meeting. Are you having trouble distinuishing between court procedings and civil meetings? Let me know if there's an area that needs clarification.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • mknoll

      This is patently false.
      No one is protesting Christians right to pray.
      The protest is against Christians mandating prayer.
      There is a BIG difference. And the Christian persecution complex on the topic is ludicrous.

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

        In a town of HOW many you have but one person complaining. So I guess the majority does NOT rule now do they.

        Quite frankly if this little town of people have been doing this for years upon years and no one complained before and everyone takes part, then suddenly out of the blue ONE person complains, I am sorry but ya know what, that complainer is in the wrong.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          So the first slave that said "Excuse me, I'm not real happy about being a slave." was a loser? Interesting. . .

          November 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
        • Sara

          As HotAirAce points out, someone has to speak up first. I don't like it when I go to public events and there are prayers. It makes me uncomfortable, but I have professional and family obligations that mean I can only speak out in a minority of cases. I am very grateful when one person stands up for all of us.

          November 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • Observer

      Randy,

      Here are words that do not appear in the body of the law of our land – the Consti-tution:

      God
      Jesus
      Christ
      Christianity
      Bible

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

      I always chuckle when people claim that atheists have beliefs, especially claiming that not acknowledging beings that have no proof for existence is a belief. It is not.

      Atheism is as much a belief as bald is a hair color.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • Sharky

        I always chuckle when Atheists and their supporters deny that Atheism is a religion. IT IS. Get over it.

        Religion is NOT relegated as simply believing in a GOD. Buddhism IS a religion, and there is not one single god at all that is worshiped or believed in. The self is believed in, but Buddhism is still a religion. Atheism IS a religion.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Is "Theism" a religion?

          Then neither is "Atheism".

          Fail

          November 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
        • Ann

          Cheese, how dare you dispute his theory with actual facts. He gets to make up his own definitions for words, don't you know that?

          November 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      This is only about forcing religious rituals on government property and during business gatherings.
      Additionally, if you want to argue against the separation of church and state or against freedom of religion, you're more than welcome to try.
      Cheers.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Yes, I share my lack of belief in leprechauns all the time and now my daughters school has decided it should add a class to teach about the possibility of leprechauns to balance out the students education. So then I started telling my daughters friends that there are no unicorns flying on comets bringing rain to the earth, so the school had to start teaching the Comet Unicorn theory just to stay balanced...

      November 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Tom

      Complete and total distortion of reality.

      Also, atheism is a religion in the same way that OFF is a television channel.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
      • Just the Facts Ma'am...

        I have to admit, OFF is my favorite channel...

        November 6, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
      • Just the Facts Ma'am...

        Don't forget to call your local cable company and ask to get OFF...

        November 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • amanda

      Exactly. Tolerance is a 1 way street with liberals and atheists. They can tell everyone their beliefs...no one else can.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Lou

      LOL! Lack of belief isn't belief!

      November 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Thomas Jefferson was the person to coin the phrase "Wall of seperation"....so when you say it was a matter of interpretation much later you mean like a "couple of weeks" right?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • willc1981

      atheism offends me why is it not offensive? your opinion is not the symbol of all. atheists still need to get over their selves

      November 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        If you are offended by someone just because they don't believe in your particular god, you are more than thin skinned, you are ridiculous.
        Do you think your belief offends someone who believes in Zues, or ra or Jah? That is disingenuous and ridiculous.
        How does some one get over their self (try using proper English)

        November 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
        • willc1981

          if you can't understand how a belief that there is no God is offensive to everyone that believes in God (however one wishes to define God) ...... and then what believers find hard to understand is why someone who doesn't believe is offended by those that do. since you don't believe any

          November 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
        • Sara

          Very few people are "offended" by anyone believing in god. They are offended by having relgion shoved down their throats and insti tuted into laws that limit our freedom.

          November 6, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
        • willc1981

          if you can't understand how a belief that there is no God is offensive to everyone that believes in God (however one wishes to define God) ...... and then what believers find hard to understand is why someone who doesn't believe is offended by those that do. What is offensive in believing in God? Are you offended by what you think is stupidity? Can we say elitist?

          November 6, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
        • Sara

          Again, almost no one is offended by people believing in god. They might be offended by someone believing in a god who asks them to mistreat other religious groups, castes or races, or gay people. But the idea of people just thinking there's a god bothers only a tiny minority.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  13. edwardst35

    I believe in every philosophy, every ideology, every political party, every religion, everything on earth and in space and that leaves no room for argument because I believe in EVERYTHING!

    November 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Sara

      Omnist.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Watching He-Man must be a nightmare for you. Do you keep expecting Skeletor and Evil-Lyn to kick down your door and molest you?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • edwardst35

      I need to slightly amend my comment on belief......there is one THING I don't believe in and that is Barack Obama.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Yeah, he's a hologram.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
        • Maddy

          Lol.

          November 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
        • edwardst35

          He is chocolate pudding with vanilla topping.

          November 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Now you're just making me hungry.

          November 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
      • willc1981

        just because you haven't met the president and that you see his image everywhere and hear of others meeting him is not proof he exists...right?

        November 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  14. Rexcraigo

    What a shame that those of us who don't believe are forced to put up with people who want to force their beliefs on us. It's wrong, just wrong.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • edwardst35

      Nobody is forcing you to breathe....so.....stop breathing and you will feel better about everything.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
      • FactCheck

        Apparently there is no oxygen getting to your brain, a real shame.

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

        Do you often suggest that those who disagree with you should die?

        November 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • willc1981

      what is a shame is being forced to put up with people that don't believe in spirit and how they try to prove their point to EVERYONE! conversations with atheists about why there is no God are very annoying.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  15. Elliott Carlin

    Well, one thing is for sure: our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their collective graves if they could see this nonsense.

    George Carlin had it right-too many idiots are bought off by technology and gadgets-taking it a step further, it is created a bunch of clowns who think they have something to add to the conversation.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • democedes

      I nominate you as clown-in-chief. Thanks for sharing.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Sharky

      Why would they be rolling in their graves? Our founding fathers were deists. Sheesh, LEARN some history would you.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • willc1981

        and as deism still requires belief in a God....maybe they would be rolling about disallowing God?

        November 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  16. Jason

    I'm not a religious man but I'd pick being a Christian and being wrong over being an atheist and becoming a whining D-bag. Man, you guys need to change your diapers.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      😉

      November 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Maddy

      Need a tissue? You sound like you're weeping a little.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
      • Jason

        Yes, laughing at these replies does have my eyes tearing up. Thank you.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Atheist

      yet you are on here whining. Congrats for defining hypocrisy.

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

        And thank you all for proving my point. Complaining once is not whining btw, listening to atheists constantly go on about Christians is. Wal-Mart has a sale on Huggies....fyi.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Dave

      I'm sorry, who's whining? Read your post aloud to yourself.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • rick

      Yes because the millions of people who are oppressed by Christians telling them how to live, who to love, making them pray on a bible. Forcing their children to pledge allegiance to a god they don't believe in. They are the bad people right?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • QS

      As usual, religion pushes people around and those being pushed around are seen by most, even those who claim to not be religious, as being the ones who are whining.

      Grow up and actually try taking an objective look at what religion is doing here, as it does everywhere – excluding people and then claiming they aren't because those people are also invited to give a "prayer" of their own....as long as it isn't too un-Christian, and as long as it's not too often.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  17. edwardst35

    We will ALL know the truth at end of time. That should solve the problem? There will be some winners...there will be some losers.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      That makes no sense.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        It probably does if you're deranged.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Madtown

      Winners or losers based on what? What criteria? How do you think you know this?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Charm Quark

      Ed...
      Whose truth and is time not a man made concept that is relative?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • rick

      Too bad the universe has existed for billions of years and will continue to exist for another billion. What an ego you must have to think anything super natural cares about a people that live on a tiny planet, in a tiny galaxy, that has existed for a fraction of a percent of time compared to the universe. Humans have existed for about 7,000 years earth millions of years the galaxy hundreds of billions of years.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
      • willc1981

        oh look you summed it up so well all religious people everywhere are going MAN, why didn't i think of that and are converting to atheism.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  18. edwardst35

    God exists in the minds of many people and God does not exist in the minds of many people. Perhaps it would be best to segregate the two so they never have contact mentally or physically and that would solve all of this discourse problem we seem to have. I don't mind either one. To each his own. My own is with God. Perhaps God does not appear as we imagine God to be BUT there is a great power out there that created all of this including us and so I will simply refer to that power as God. Chance does not create. Only a positive power creates.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      "there is a great power out there that created all of this including us"

      Proof?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
      • windows phone 8 user

        you continue to ask for proof whereas the proof is right in front on you.
        the birth of a baby
        the millions of stars in the sky each with its own orbit with dozens of planets
        the plants, the trees, your nonsensical brain etc etc

        November 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          If you consider that proof, I'd hate for you to be on a jury trying an innocent man.

          November 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Charm Quark

      Ed...
      What happens when matter comes in contact with anti matter?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
      • edwardst35

        You get a Charm Quark........whatever that is?

        November 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          Ed...
          You could look it up yourself but I understand that you have come here to pontificate not discuss as so many faith believers also do. Not much point conversing with you, have a nice day.

          November 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Dave

      Separate but equal?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • misterflibble1

      Honestly, do you really think Christians can mind their own business and not force their religion down others throats? lol, come on.

      Oh, and that "Great Power that created everything including us" is called Quantum Mechanics and Random Chance.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
      • willc1981

        to a religious person quantum mechanics is just another tool in the tool belt God wears.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Atheist

      They do. It is called a mental hospital. You can really find some great stories of faith (faith is defined as believing without facts). Plenty of those people hear god as well in their head. That is how we view you.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • The hammer of obviousness

      OK. So what created this "positive power" in which you believe?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • 4th&26

      If you believe in a God and feel the need to pray to that God do so in private; there is no place for that in matters concerning civic affairs...period.

      By the way, the claim for the existence of God is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence...what proof do you have that God exists? If I claimed that I could cure cancer the first thing out of your mouth would be "show me"...a very fair and logical response.

      Show me.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  19. Tom

    I wonder what her oath was like when she was being sworn in.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • thinkb4speaking

      Nobody is require to swear to any god, or on a Bible,when taking an oath; you are allowed to "affirm" when being sworn in.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • thinkb4speaking

      Nobody is require to swear to any god, or on a Bible,when taking an oath. You are allowed to "affirm" when being sworn in.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • edwardst35

      In Wiccan I trust? In air I trust? In nothing do I trust? Trust me?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
      • democedes

        Because a believer is always true to their oath.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
      • rick

        How about in fictional characters created to control weak minded people thousands of years ago? How do you not see the bible was created to get money and control the populace. Just like any other form of brainwash it was about the smart controlling the weak minded, it is hard to believe over a thousand years later people like you still fall for it.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  20. Eric

    In the end we will know who is right. A public meeting where the leaders pray for wisdom and direction is fine. I have the choice to stay or go. I do not have to participate and no one is forcing it on me. Wasting the courts time on this is foolish at best. Like many others I have served to protect the freedoms of this nation and will not apologize for disagreeing with an atheist about their views. However, they have to right to not have religious beliefs. I have watched our nation steadily begin to fall for several years, because the moral standards of this nation our continually challenged under the guise of "freedom and equality." Many have asked for change and all this other stuff. Now you can feel free to deal with results of it.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      - I have watched our nation steadily begin to fall for several years, because the moral standards of this nation our continually challenged under the guise of "freedom and equality." -
      Is it your assertion that this "fall of moral standards" is the fault of atheists?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
      • Sara

        I'd ask if these are the same moral standards that are giving us the lowest murder rates, car theft rates and teen pregnancy rates in decades?

        November 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
        • willc1981

          and how many public shootings or school shootings have there been in just the past 2 years?...

          November 6, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
        • Sara

          Will, your argument is that because one type of murder has increased as murder in general has decreased we are in moral decline? Really, that's the argument you want to go with?

          November 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
        • willc1981

          no just suggesting there is a bigger problem that what your statistics would show. i do not agree that there is a moral decline in the nation but i would not say the opposite applies either.

          November 6, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • Maddy

      No. It's fine for YOU, because you are Christian. What is foolish is that you don't understand the role of religion in government: NONE!

      November 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
      • willc1981

        we say religion has no role in government but the government is people that all have some sort of belief system which in turn dictates the decisions they make.

        November 6, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Sara

      Really, you come in with your walker to state your case for a new stop light and as soon as prayer starts you're supposed to get out into the hall, know when to get back in time, and meanwhile not have endangered your case by leaving?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • willc1981

        Like any other time someone says or does something that is not your custom. ignore it stupid

        November 6, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
        • Sara

          When you've squeezed intro psych into your community college course load and know what priming is why don't you come back here and talk to the grown-ups.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
        • willc1981

          are you saying you are afraid of being "primed" into religion? that is absurd. or were you just trying to say that you are smarter than me? either way like with my advice i can just ignore you. i don't have to feign oppression and take you to court. no one is forced to listen and obey. it is your choice to hear the words someone is speaking or not. on your remarks about community college and college courses. we all have met plenty of stupid people with degrees.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
        • Sara

          Really, that's ridiculous? You might want to look at the studies that show how voting paterns differ when voting occurs in a church vs a school vs a community center.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Eric, please don't bring any sound logic or reason to this board.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
      • Jackson

        Would you feel the same if that court had opened with a Muslim prayer?

        I bet not.

        Hypocrite.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "In the end we will know who is right."

      Many peoples lives end every day and we still have no evidence that they "know" anything after death, so your starting premise is flawed.

      "I have the choice to stay or go." Not if you are one of the elected officials participating in the meeting where prayer is currently mandatory.

      "will not apologize for disagreeing with an atheist about their views." I don't care a wit about you disagreeing with me, it bothers me not, but when you attempt to legislate your religion by forcing others to participate in it by injecting it into local, State or Federal governance, then you have crossed the line and should have the snot slapped out of you.

      "I have watched our nation steadily begin to fall for several years, because the moral standards of this nation our continually challenged under the guise of "freedom and equality." Right, like how we have steadily fallen from grace when our nation was so great, you know, with things like slavery, Jim Crow laws, when women couldn't vote, when interracial marriage was banned and the continued persecution and discrimination of people based solely on who they choose to love. You can go back to your warped view of American history if you wish and fly your Confederate flag and be the hate mongers you are, but the rest of America is growing up and won't fall for your horse shlt anylonger.

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

        Can I get an "AMEN" up in here?

        November 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
      • FactCheck

        Well said.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      A public gov't meeting is not the time or place for everyone to preach their personal supersti.tion.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • FactCheck

      Great, Eric. All we need to do is put you in charge and you can tell all the rest of us what to believe.

      Why should someone have to "go" why others stand in front of a crowd and preach a particular religious view? Why can't they keep their views to themselves? Why can't they pray for guidance at home and come on public property ready to work, restored and inspired by their particular deity?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Dave

      Might as well say it's OK for the town meeting to be a full-blown church service. Afterall, non-Christians still aren't being forced to attend.

      Ridiculous argument.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        Exactly, replace "prayer" with "Catholic Mass" and watch their tune change immediately.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Nursehope

      Moral standards of the 1900-1970 era: Its OK to beat your wife, Its not OK for a black and white person to marry, It's not OK for women to vote, It's not OK for women and blacks to have equal rights, it's OK to beat your child, it's not OK to be LGBT...are these the moral standards you wish to return to?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Eric
      So what you are saying, is we should go back to having only white land owners voting, and bring slavery back...the good ol' days, right?

      November 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.