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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. Richard

    As a Christian if the town loses can I sue the winners for denying my right to religion? Why do we always have to take a backseat to these atheist? We always let the minority win. Why? Like 90% of the world is religious. I think we should stop giving in to the minority! Seriously!

    November 6, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "We always let the minority win. Why? "

      Apparently you have yet to learn that our constltution "contain instltutionalized mechanisms of power control for the protection of the interests and liberties of the citizenry, including those that may be in the minority."

      I'm sure a Dick like you would not be able to comprehend such big words, but just try, one more time before the rest of us who do understand it dismiss you for the moron you are.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      You are the minority, Richard. Most of the world is non-Christian. Non-theism will predominate in your country soon enough. No fear, I'm sure your right to pray will be protected.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "As a Christian if the town loses can I sue the winners for denying my right to religion?"

      No because you are not being denied your right to religion. Why do you see it as taking a "back seat" instead of "sitting side by side". If there is no religious mention, pro or con, how does equate to the atheist getting preference over the Christian?

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

      I would like pray to Spiderman in town hall meetings. If they do not allow I will chant hindu prayers...Om ......

      November 6, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • sybaris

      Nobody is denying your right to practice your religion. You have a church, use it.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  2. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    This isn't quite the court we need, but it will come. Eventually non-theism will predominate anyway – everywhere.

    November 6, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  3. Humble_hearted

    I have a genuine question:

    What is wrong with public prayer? Why does it make people uncomfortable? I'm asking this with a sincere tone...Please respond

    November 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Because those who pray are a clique, of sorts, that views those who are obvious about disdaining prayer as morally suspect.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
      • Jake

        Ah, a more succinct version of my point #2!

        November 6, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Jake

      There is no problem with you praying in public – that is your right. However, there is a problem with prayer as part of the structure of a public government meeting. In fact, there are many problems. A few are:

      1) It sends the message that the meeting is not for the entire public, but only for those who are religious. It sets a religious tone that makes non-religious people feel like they shouldn’t be there.

      2) It sets the stage for discrimination against non-religious people in a forum that should is supposed to be inclusive of the entire public. Like it or not, many religious people do not like atheists and by not participating in the prayer, it is likely that atheists will be written off if they actually have something to say about whatever the meeting is actually supposed to be about.

      3) Some of us find religion in general to be a very evil and disgusting thing and don’t want to have anything to do with it. Whether you understand why we feel that way or not, you should agree that we shouldn’t be forced to expose ourselves to strange ritualistic prayers just to participate in a public government meeting.

      4) Allowing religion to be a structural part of a government meeting is a slippery slope. We already have laws that are directly based on religion and we need to be moving in the other direction.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Charm Quark

      Which religions prayers are you referring too? Should every one at a meeting be able to recite a prayer at every meeting? How do you prevent one religion dominating over all of the others? Would you object if I mandated that the prayers are begun from the first peoples religions, the Indians? Can of worms, none would be best, pray/prey at the clip joint/church of your choice.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Humble_hearted

      Is it safe to say that the core issue is that religious believers who are extreme zealots make it hard for believer and non-believers to coexist?

      November 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • democedes

      It is not public prayer that is the problem, it is government led prayer. Leading with a prayer from the same religion every meeting is an endorsement of that religion, regardless of the intention.

      As an analogy: When I was in the military, you did not express your opinion in uniform when speaking to the media. Because the media and civilians will mistake your opinion for official government policy.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Michael G

      Because it is a clear violation of the first amendment, which says that the government shall promote NO ONE religion, and Christianity is always the religion they promote. The founding fathers of this country knew how important it was to keep religion out of government. We had just fought a war to escape an oppressive government that was church based. Never again.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Because it is not "public prayer", it is gov't prayer. You can pray in public all you want. I can drive 10 blocks to the Planned Parenthood clinic and see people praying in public on the sidewalk every day. And they should be allowed to but that is NOT the same as praying a a public gov't function as a PART of the gov't function. I answered honestly, do you see the difference?

      November 6, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
      • Humble_hearted

        Oops :-/ I miss read your post. My apology. But I guess what I'm not understanding is, what is "Government Prayer?" Is it taking the religous act into the atmosphere of Government?

        November 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Government as part of the function of Government. Within the scope of the meeting. As an atheist I belong to a non-religious charity organization and even though they are non-religious they open their meetings with a prayer to Jesus every week. I don't have to be a member, I choose to, as such I stand silently and I am fine with that, even though my opinion is it is bad for the charity. Goverment is to represent everyone equally, Jew, Christian, Buddist, Muslim and non-believers..the list is endless. The only way gov't can represent all belief equally is to be absolutely nuetral, neither pro nor con, as to the question of religion.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • Humble_hearted

      What is the difference from public (schools, doctor's office, resturants) and government? I am just trying to understand the division

      November 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        We will take schools as an example. There are public schools run by the gov't. There are private schools run by churches. Public (gov't) school you can as an individual pray in, the teacher as a gov't official cannot lead a prayer, the school cannot hold prayer services as part of the function of the school even though the student CAN pray as inviduals.
        Private school (church schools) you can pray and hold services as part of the school function all they want. I know this from experience, I had to attend church in school every week as a part of my school day.

        November 6, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  4. Geoz

    I just wish people would pray privately when they need to pray.

    November 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  5. cribbooky

    Why are liberal atheists so whiny? If religious believers waste a minute of your time doing a prayer, who cares? Take a mental break during the minute. Liberals want everyone to embrace diversity unless they experience even the most minute inconvenience, and then it becomes everyone else is wrong, and they must be changed. I'm a conservative atheist and I think liberal atheists are bunch of whining babies. Where is all of the concern about inconvenience when it comes to taking from the earners? Now that is real inconvenience and real damage done that is quantifiable.

    November 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • democedes

      So, you came to the internet to whine about all the whining.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Geoz

      Are prayers inconvenienced by not praying publicly? Not much. They can pray all day. They can pray silently in the statehouse. Too many religious folks want to play victim when, in fact, they rule the world. I'd just assume they keep it private.

      I wouldnt file a suit about it, but I don't have to like it either.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • too many gods... my head hurts

      I'm a conservative atheist (most closely resembling a libertarian, politically).... but I strongly side with the "whiny atheists" on this one.

      How do you feel about about having a senate chaplain (paid for by US taxpayer dollars)...??

      November 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
      • Xero

        I'm a Conservative Atheist as well, and this is just absurd. Let these people be.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Well then you would be ok with a Catholic Mass to open City Gov't meeting right?

          November 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Michael G

      No one is whining. This isn't about inconvenience. It is about principle. Religion has no place in government, and it is extremely important not to let it get a foot in the door. The Revolutionary war was fought by a group of people trying to escape the tyrannical rule of the Church. We don't need a bunch of people who believe in talking snakes and magical fairies in our government.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Jake

      LOL, you make a whiny post about other people whining. And you probably didn't even catch the irony.

      You can pray all you want. What you can't do is build prayer into the structure of a public government meeting. When you do that, it sends the message that the meeting is for religious people, not for the entire public. It also forces non-religious people to endure a strange, ritualistic prayer that is just weird and offensive.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      It's not the time wasting nature of prayer I'm concerned about. It's the possibility that my religious beliefs might be used against me when doing business with a government. If religion is never part of government, there is greater probability that everyone will be treated fairly.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  6. Rachell

    Agreed. Prayer has no place in government. We have churches/synagogues/mosques/etc for that. If these people who want prayers in the halls of government believe in it so staunchly, then I assume they will be perfectly ok with the Muslim call to prayer before each meeting. Not just once or twice, but everyday from 2013-2016 with maybe a token prayer to Jesus in between followed by another solid block of the Islamic prayers. Let's see how tolerant people feel and if that doesn't serve to drive a wedge between people. Rep. Keith Ellison was sworn in on the Qur'an and even THAT was too much for some people to bear...with calls for him to step down. ****ing hypocrites.

    November 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  7. Yakobi

    There are no gods or goddesses, demons or devils, ghosts or goblins. Religion was invented by man to control the masses.

    November 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      There could be goblin-like creatures on other planets.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
      • Yakobi

        There could also be alien worlds that are solely comprised of Santas...or Satans...or Santanas...or Sandinistas...or Sandpipers...or San Diegans...or Sandwiches, etc.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • lol??

      What mass of bwain cells told you THAT??

      November 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
      • AverageJoe76

        The ones you're missing to come to the same conclusion.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  8. Yakobi

    Save it for Sunday, religious politicians. Your god doesn't belong anywhere in government.

    November 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • lol??

      Oh, oooooh, feisty!

      Psa 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

      Psa 2:3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

      Psa 2:4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
      • Yakobi

        This is me, not feeding the troll.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
        • lol??

          Why is the uncola crowd trolling a cola blog?? Psycho??

          November 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  9. Michael

    Drop her and her ilk into a male prison yard, and she'll pray to Jesus, faster than a speeding bullet!

    November 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      No, she won't, just like she won't try to reach out to Superman or Zeus.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Well Duh

      Why not pray to Santa, Bigfoot, Spider-Man, or Harry Potter? All equally effective.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • sybaris

      Why would she do that?

      This alleged Jesus fellow does nothing to stop children from being ra.ped even in its own house of worship.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
      • too many gods... my head hurts

        enter the world of circular logic that is the free will argument

        November 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Michael G

      No she won't, because she knows the history of Christianity. Jesus is a myth. He likely never existed. Do some research. Once you know the ugly truth about how Christianity came to be, you'll realize it for the farce it is.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  10. Michael

    Am I still banned?

    November 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • BobPitt

      YES...!!!

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

        Apparently I am. Anything I post that is longer than a few words never shows up.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • democedes

          Why do you assume it is admins, and not the will of God? God had spoken! Begone from this place.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
        • fyi

          Michael,

          Check out the list of automatic word filter hints on page #17.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          If you can post at all, you are not banned. The automatic word filter might be giving you an issue, like you can't use the word const!tution without modifying it because there is a T!T in the middle of it.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
        • democedes

          Don't listen to them. God has spoken. You should not be here.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • democedes

      Lest you be smoted.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  11. Prof

    I am tired of these lies about talking snakes, fairies, heaven, the white bearded guy above the clouds....why not teach some science to our kids about evolution, stem cells and climate change? What was God doing at the time of 9/11 terrorist attack, what was god doing in Sandy Brooke massacre...was he taking a rest?

    November 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • lol??

      He was making you comfy in your delusions.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  12. JDMArkansas

    Actually, even the Christian Bible, yes the NEW Testament, is against public prayers like this. JESUS said (according to the Bible) that you should NOT make a public display of prayer. He said to go into a closet and pray to God alone. Are the town board meetings conducted by having each member go into a closet and talk to themselves? Prayer has NO place in ANY meeting sponsored by ANY branch of the government. This does not prevent individuals, including public officials, from praying privately if they wish to, but prayer has NO place in GOVERNMENT. As for prayer in schools, it has been said "As long as there are math exams, there WILL be prayer in schools!", but it doesn't have to be promoted by the school administration.

    November 6, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      WhatEVER – like Jesus knows what he's talking about with regards to christianity.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  13. DaDorkus

    That is right – it is not appropriate for those ministers to talk about jesus but completely appropriate for this gal to talk about how jesus does not exist.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      She does not get up to start the meetings with any statement like that. Is there a point you are trying to make?

      November 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        Nor does she want to be allowed to.

        What's so hard about "no religion in government ever" that believers can't understand?

        November 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          They think it is an attack on their religion, and will blindly defend it even though they have no valid position to defend. It is not an attack on religion, it is simply curtailing inapproprite behavior.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          And they don't understand that they may be harmed if someone of another tribe is in power when they want to do business with a government.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • NickZadick

      What part of "fairy-tales should not be part of civilised discussions2 don't you understand? just because you believe in ridiculous myths does not make them true!

      November 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Apparently "no prayer" = "Jesus doesn't exist"

      Your logic is lacking to say the least. But it does get a bit to the heart of the matter, Christians like yourself think if there is no mention of their god at a function, that is a statement in and of itself that Jesus does not exist.

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

        This is a point that I think the majority of Christians just are unable to fathom. For some reason they think that an atheist demanding that no prayer be given amounts to the atheist giving some speech about how believers are stupid. All they want is for the elected officials to do the job they were hired to do, that of civil governance, not moral police.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
        • Science Works

          They just do not get it yet that morals do not come from religion or the bible.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • Science Works

          And they are way off base when it comes to morality and the bedroom.

          Scientists Solve Major Piece in the Origin of Biological Complexity

          Nov. 6, 2013 — Scientists have puzzled for centuries over how and why multicellular organisms evolved the almost universal trait of using single cells, such as eggs and sperm, to reproduce. Now researchers led by University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences postdoctoral fellow William Ratcliff and associate professor Michael Travisano have set a big piece of that puzzle into place by applying experimental evolution to transform a single-celled algae into a multicellular one that reproduces by dispersing single cells.

          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131106073859.htm

          November 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  14. Jason

    The gays and Atheists are beginning to control our country! And don't forget, you are not allowed to have an opinion or a belief in america any longer because if you do, you are "judging"!

    November 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      What about the ultimate terror: GAY ATHEISTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I always carry garlic and a crucifix when I pass a gay club or any sort of science lab.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Do you have any point to make or are you just here to throw out ridiculous unsubstantiated opinion and insults?

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

        unsubstantiated? Did you hear about the bakery shop that refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple and was dragged into court and forced to shut down? Atheist forced to pray vs Christians forced to make a cake for gays? What’s the difference? The moral of the story is that gay and atheist rights are rising above all.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I agree that that was ridiculous. No private business should be forced to serve anybody. That's completely incomparable with this case though.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          No. Civil rights are being backed.
          You cannot open a store and disciminate. If you do not like black people, you cannot bar them for that reason, and you will be taken into court for your violation of civil rights.

          Yes...unsubstantiated.
          Why should you expect that religion should be practiced at a government business meeting?
          You would be fired if every work meeting you attended, you stopped for prayer.
          It is inappropriate just as if I went to your church and discussed zoning issue before the service. Not appropriate.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Forcing private businesses to serve anybody is bullsh!t, regardless of what the law says.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Dave,

          So the utility companies arbitrarily refuse to serve people? Businesses are not free to act in any fashion they choose. Businesses should not be able to act in any way they choose to anymore than individuals should be able to drive a car anyway they choose to. The difference in his argument is gov't action vs. business action. It is apples and oranges.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          "Is this a case of religious freedom? Or unlawful discrimination?

          The state of Oregon says if you run a business, you've got to serve gays even it goes against your religious principles. So when a gay couple wanted to order a wedding cake from Sweet Cakes bakery, the owner, a devout Christian, refused.

          The couple sued and the Oregon state Bureau of Labor and Industries, after conducting an investigation, ruled that the bakery had to serve the gay couple.

          Note that the bakery owner is not being charged with refusing to serve gay people, but is accused of refusing to take a contract for a wedding cake – a wedding that they see as illegitimate regardless of what the law says.

          If a gay couple came into the store and wanted to buy some donuts or bread, and were refused service, that is what the law was supposed to prevent. But that's not the case here and this unilateral expansion of the definition of the law infringes on the religious freedom of the owner."

          We live in a country where we recognize a balance between public and private. This business was a public business and if they had refused to serve a black couple based on their hate for blacks the case would have gone the same way. You can hate all you want but if you run a business that is open to the public then there are rules you MUST follow. If you don't like it then you can set up a private business and have a members only policy so you can discriminate to your hearts content. There is a local golf course where I live that does not allow black members but it is not open to the general public so no one can force them to change their rules, it is private and that is their choice. If they wanted to start opening it up to the public but banned blacks from playing then we would have the local DA up their ass so fast it would make their racist heads spin. The case of the gay wedding cake is no different.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          "Businesses should not be able to act in any way they choose to anymore than individuals should be able to drive a car anyway they choose to."

          I agree, but that's not comparable.

          "The difference in his argument is gov't action vs. business action."

          I've already acknowledged this.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
        • Sara

          Dave,

          You are the only doctor on call in a s,all town ER. Can you turn away the black manwith appendicitis because you don't want to serve him? You are the plumber on call and his basement is flooding? If all the apartment complexes in town don't want to rent to Muslims, that's OK, too, they're just kept out of town?

          November 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          "I agree, but that's not comparable. "

          It is absolutely comparable. You presented no reason as to why it is not comparable either. Just the Facts Maam" summed it up very well in his last paragraph above. Public business means adhering to the rules of a public business, just like a driver is to adhere to the rules of a public street. If you are operating your car on your own land (private) you can drive any way you want. The analogy holds.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      If you have lost control of your country it might be because you have been judged and found lacking.

      And those Supreme Court justices that ultimately decides what's const!tutional – they're all hetero believers – not a gay or atheist in the bunch.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      No one is forcing them to be silent, they can sing to the rafters in church, they can preach in the street. They can print fliers and create websites, they can take ads out in the paper. They can have TV shows and whole TV stations to say whatever they like.

      What we are talking about is a public, gov't meeting where they are not allowed to preach to a captive audience on the gov't dime. According to your logic if they are not allowed to preach absolutely whenever and wherever they like they are being "silenced"...that is absurd and you are being obtuse.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • QS

      Religious people who say stuff like this only end up sounding like they're terrified of religion losing more control to rational thinking.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • lol??

      It's women and children (gangs) that are the oppressors.

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

        No one was vigilant for freedom. That'll happen when you toss out wisdom.

        Isa 3:12 As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Epacific

      Jason, asking to maintain the separation of church & state that our forefathers envisioned is hardly a need for you to freak out. Were you one of those people who said that "The BLACKS are taking over!!" when JFK forced the University of Alabama to accept African Americans? Are we a wee bit too progressive for you in the 21st century?

      November 6, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • sybaris

      I'll take reason, logic and good fashion sense over willful ignorance and Levi's any day.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Sam Crawford

      Controlling the country? Over 500 members of Congress are Christian or Jewish, compared to one nontheist.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
      • democedes

        And they are doing such a good job too. You would think people would want a little less irrational belief in their government.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Oh you poor poor persecuted christian.
      As for Gays and Atheists taking over...how is this happening? If you're going to make an absurd claim, at least attempt to back it.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • postedbygeorge

      jc was gay, no wife, no kids, no girlfriend only guys around.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  15. MAX

    Why r u talking about free Will? If Will is in jail he probly belongs there.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      FREE HAT!!!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHeyCiIYU8U

      November 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  16. rs

    God is pretty adamant about free will and It's easy to see how people can get turned off to the real deal.The fact is that No one can stop me or anyone else from praying anywhere or anytime we wish to do so.As a matter of fact as Christians we are asked to pray without ceasing.That doesn't mean we force others to pray with us. God is in complete control but when one group of people tries to force another group of people to adhere to beliefs that they don't have then rebellion will follow. Corinthians 2:14. is spot on with this.
    As Christians we should understand what the 2 most important commandments are to GOD (Matthew 22:36-40).. I believe if we focus more on these 2 commandments then more people will open up their minds to the possibility of a spiritual world than they ever will by making them listen to someone pray at a football game or parade.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • sybaris

      It's funny when religionists whip out Bible verses.

      They're like an 8 year old trying to stab you with an imaginary sword.

      Cute and ineffective

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

      So go into the nearest courtroom that is in session and start reciting your mumbo jumbo. I look forward to seeing you thrown out if not arrested.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Don't ask for a special time slot for leading groups in prayer on my time. Besides, it's "pray without seizing" – we know that there is a link between seizure threshold and prayer.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Epacific

      One of our nation’s founding fathers, James Madison, said it best:
      "The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife
      that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

      The Sun God, Thor, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus along with the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Invisible Pink Unicorn are also quite adamant about free will. But they are also, like your god, fictional. Let's keep religion & cults out of politics.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      rs
      "God is pretty adamant"

      Adam Ant is not god, but it is nice you think he is pretty.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
      • Maddy

        Ha! Love Adam Ant!

        November 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
        • JoeSchmoe

          Don't drink? Don't pray? What do you do? (Subtle innuendo, must be something inside)

          November 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • AJR

      Either "God is in control" or there is "free will," which means that there is no outside control. So which is it? Does God have complete control, or are we free to do as we see fit pursuant to our "free will." Can't have it both ways.

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

      I love how everyone that responded completely missed the point of RS's post. He is agreeing with you guys.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        Everyone did not miss his point 'cause he made multiple, somewhat contradictory points.

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

      If you pray without ceasing, how do you eat/sleep?

      November 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  17. PAT

    Pray to Satan at a Greece,NY town meeting for each time there is a Christian prayer and let the town have it their way.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • SteveInMN

      Ohhh, YEAH! THAT!!!

      November 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  18. QS

    I saw an absolutely ridiculous commercial last night selling, disgustingly, a commemorative knick-knack of sorts of "the Pledge of Allegiance".

    I sat there, in amazement, as the voiceover kept putting extra emphasis on the fact that everything about this neat little product centered around the "under god" part of the pledge.

    And to add to the nausea-inducing, faux patriotism feel of the ad they offer, as an added bonus, a commemorative coin of the Freedom Tower, symbolizing how "god" gave us strength to come back after the tragedy of 9/11 and "let freedom ring"!

    This commercial may seem to many to be nothing to give a second thought to. But it's this kind of blending of patriotism with "god" and religion in general that is trying to work it's way not just into local government but federal as well, and it must be stopped.

    I hope the Supreme Court disallows the practice of prayer altogether at any type of government function, from the top, down.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Steve

      You may very well be carrying many statements "In God We Trust" in your wallet. This nation was founded and established under God with freedom ideals. If you don't like it that's tough, people don't need to change because of your disbelief.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGwjp07oO8U

        November 6, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
      • thinkb4speaking

        "This nation was founded and established under God ..." – and you have evidence of this?

        November 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
      • democedes

        "In God We Trust" was addend to paper currency in 1957. It is religion that has twisted the government against the principles of the founding fathers.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  19. Rocio Castro

    I am catholic. I do the sign of the cross in public. If that offends anyone I don't care!!!! Don't look at me. I am not ashamed nor do I care if you don't like it.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      That is completely incomparable with state sanctioned public prayer.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • J Gaston

      I don't give a flying fig when or where you want to do the sign of the cross. Don't make it a requirement to hold up public meetings to do it and you can cross yourself until your eyes cross.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • democedes

      As long as you don't have to stop a government meeting so that you and your fellow Catholics can all do it together, nobody has a problem with that.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • BobPitt

      Is ok just do that... if it makes you feel better.. I just fart when I see someone doing it.. I hope it doesn't bother you either..

      November 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      ....How DARE YOU.....!

      HOW DARE YOU GESTURE NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, AND WEST!!! Argghhh! It burns my eyes (ahhh)

      November 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Is that where gangs get throwing up gang symbols with their hands an' junk....?

      November 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  20. Howie

    Religious faith is a mental illness. It should be stamped out wherever it appears.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Actually, religion is more like a persistent infection- like HIV, say. We need to get it under control and effect a cure if possible, else help people live with it.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      You sound like you belong in the League of Militant Atheists. State atheism is a bad idea.

      November 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
      • NickZadick

        Are you saying you can't run a civilisation without ridiculous myths and fairy tales?? I beg to differ!

        November 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Yet another person to confuse secularism and state atheism.

          November 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
        • NickZadick

          I confuse nothing !! They both need religion to be considered valid...religion is complete fiction...it should of beign wiped out centuries ago!

          November 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • BobPitt

      Is a very efficient form of control. if you care to notice, the more uneducated the more religious.. (with some exceptions of course)

      November 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
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About this blog

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