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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. Humble_hearted

    i am seriously suggesting that dodo ain't too bright

    lay lay lay
    lay across my big brass bed
    lay lady lay
    stay wit your man awhile
    until the break of day
    let me c u make m smile

    November 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  2. nnika

    I'm a spiritual person I believe in a higher power. However, I don't feel starting a business meeting out with a group prayer is appropriate. If you want to pRay before your meeting do it in private. One doesn't need to put this practice on display and subject others to it who may not feel the same way. I'm getting really tired of hearing religious folks claim non religious folks are trying to remove god from everything. That is simply not true. Hell in god we trust wasnt added to the US money until the 1950's. Xmas was a nonsecular celebration and then overtime Christians hijacked it and claimed it as theirs. Now these same folks claim their offended because others say happy holidays and not merry Xmas. People have over the years added god and religion into public affairs. And what I don't like about that is if one didn't believe like the majority then they ostracized. And that's just simply wrong. Live and let live.

    November 6, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Sara

      It's really kind of funny that for the first half of this country's history most of the Christians here thought celebrating Christmas was improper.These holidays are in the public domain. If someone wants to celebrate Christmas Hindu style go at it. It should all be fun or what's the point?

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

      There is nothing wrong with publicly displaying your religion as long as you are not harming anyone. Whatever anyone believes in should be respected. period. im christian and if i was at a conference and a muslim began a prayer i would not be angry. Why is so hard just for people to respect whatever is your belief and faith. the fact that you may not believe in what i believe in doesn't mean that you should tell me how to practise my religion. Its simply respecting. Why must an atheist rant about this, I wouldn't rant about it even if it was something else.
      And by the way, Christmas is a christian celebration, just as Idr-fitr and Ramadan exist for muslims.
      It was celebrated on the day of a pagan festival in the time of Christ, thats all. wasn't stolen.
      If you don't like it, don't celebrate it. Because whether you like it or not, its our festival to celebrate the birth of Christ.
      Maybe you can rant about other Celebrations like hannukah, etc. then.
      Its simply, just have respect for everyones religion

      November 6, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        You clearly do not even understand your own religions history.
        Also, it does harm everyone by wasting the peoples time and money. It is also inappropriate.

        Do you start every work day with a company wide prayer?
        When you mow the lawn, do you pray first?
        When you go to the grocery store, do you stop and pray first?

        There is ABSOLUTELY no reason to expect to pray at a government business meeting. It is simply inapprapriate.

        Why doo you think it is acceptable?

        November 6, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
        • jjiij

          Im just saying I wouldn't attack anyone for displaying what they believe in just because I didn't. if everyone respects one anothers religion or belief, there will be peace

          November 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
        • jjiij

          There is not ONE SINGLE decent comment here. Just people condemning Christianity. a clear example of what I mean...Do not condemn anyones religion if YOU do not believe in it. its as simple as that. RESPECT

          November 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Where exactly in my above comment did I condemn christianity. I said YOU do not understand YOUR religions history. I did not say anything about the belief itself.

          Do you not agree that it is simply inappropriate to start a government business meeting, just as it would be inappropriate for any corporation to do it?

          November 6, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
        • jjiij

          I was making reference to the comments on the page. not yours. And yes i do know my religion and I know that the day we chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (christmas: "birth of Jesus Christ") is the day that a pagan festival was celebrated.

          November 6, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Where exactly in my above comment did I condemn christianity. I said YOU do not understand YOUR religions history. I did not say anything about the belief itself.

          Do you not agree that it is simply inappropriate to start a government business meeting, just as it would be inappropriate for any corporation to do it?

          dodo, when was the last time u were outside?

          November 7, 2013 at 10:48 am |
      • Sara

        jjiij,

        I'm guessing you live in the U.S. or another christian dominated country and have no idea what it's like to be a religious minority? I'll give you a hint: it's not like being a Christian in the US and listening to a Muslim prayer every 5 years.

        November 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  3. sirhuxley

    Why would Christians even go to a meeting about City Business? Gods "kingdom" is not of this world.

    Besides they all believe that we are living in the "end times" right?

    So why bother?

    Why if I were a Christian I would fly kites in thunderstorms, that is like getting raptured, I mean you would KNOW that god was calling you to heaven you got zapped with a lightning bolt.

    Christians should look forward to dying of diseases too, so drop all your health insurance too!

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

      sirhuxley, you're an idiot.

      November 6, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  4. Humble_hearted

    i am seriously suggesting that dodo ain't too bright

    lay lay lay
    lay across my big brass bed

    November 6, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  5. Wigglymump

    Hiya.

    I'm not keen on a prayer (for any religion) be the first thing in a government meeting. It would bug me a bit, but I'd just sit there and let them do their thing. No skin off my non-believing teeth (kinda like listening to a 5 year old talk about Santa comming and how cool it's going to be and if she'll get what she asked for).

    That said, why don't they just move the whole prayer thing to the end of the meeting? At the 'end' just say, "OK, meeting adjourned. For those that want to stay, a quick prayer and blessing will be said over the preceedings in 5 minutes". There. Now the non-believers can say their good-bys and take off, and the believers can stay and do their thing.

    For some reason, though, I think the christians would have a problem with this, and the non-believers may too. I can't put my finger on why they would...but, well, hmmm. Maybe the christiants would feel like they were puting god "last" or something? And the non-believers would still piont and say "But it's still in a government meeting!". *shrug* So I guess that's the perfect solution; both sides don't get exactly what they want and both sides go away a bit unhappy. Ahhhh...the bitter sweet taste of compromise. πŸ™‚

    November 6, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      That is still using governmet building time, electricity to support religion. Why can't they pray, then show up to the meeting and leave it at that?

      November 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Humble_hearted

      Hmmm never thought of it that way

      November 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • JJ

      But one must ask what's the real purpose for this prayer. It's really a way for Christians to push their delusions onto others and expose and demonize those who aren't like them.

      November 6, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
      • Sara

        Given that their own bible tells them not to pray in public you have to guess that's a likely motivation. It may be less conscious as they desperately seek to shore up their own identi.ties in a rapidly changing world.

        November 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
        • 116

          the Bible says not to pray in public for the purpose of attracting attention to yourself, there is a difference you are trying to say we are arrogant, get your facts right.

          November 7, 2013 at 9:39 am |
        • Joey

          116 That is exactly what they are doing when they open a meeting with a prayer.

          November 7, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  6. lol??

    They were prayin' for Detroit and all the other cities that got ripped by the educratists in the counting, err accounting dept.

    November 6, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Yakobi

      This is me, not feeding the troll.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Well Duh

      N thur prayin failed.

      Bwwwwwahahahaha

      November 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  7. Frank

    I believe this is a perversion of the 1st Amendment. My mom told me once if you dont like what someone has to say then dont listen to them. The way i see it you have a right to be an atheist but you dont have a right to tell those that are believers they cant pray when you can walk around saying the gd word.

    November 6, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Well Duh

      Works for you as long as it's prayers to YOUR god doesn't it?

      November 6, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Yakobi

      No, it's a pretty clear cut violation of the 1st Amendment. A group prayer at a government function is an establishment of religion by the government. The xtians are free to pray whenever else they want, alone or in groups, just not during government functions.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • sirhuxley

      Uh, you can pray on your own time anywhere in public even, I don't care if people think you are crazy.

      But you may not pray at government meetings, state and local business does not require deification, or witch doctoring.

      Now, your simple view relies on the fact that you be uneducated and simple minded, to you, god is goodness and all that.

      But to the GOP, to the Oil Lobby, to Banks and Corporations Christianity is a way to DIVIDE the American people.

      So, in order to keep attracting people to Christianity and to bolster its fading relevance, Christians like to associate Christianity with government POWER, (ie, Police Power)

      When you are an Atheist, you really understand that the Christians on the Police Force aren't there for you, they don't protect Atheists. Because they have an agenda.

      Once a Sheriff told me that to be "a part of the community" that I needed to "get god in my life"

      Now, I have a reason to care about this issue...

      November 6, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  8. Mark

    Dear god, send donkey punch to outer darkness soon.

    November 6, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • Maddy

      Please explain what you mean by donkey punch, because I am unfamiliar with that expression of faith.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  9. Don

    Real faith does not force and can not force faith unto others. We don't have that privilege or power. We can only spread the gospel and by words and example hope to be a light. If you were ever converted to true faith, it is because God spoke to you and you answered his calling, so no, no one forced anything. If you were forced, you would not be on here talking negatively because God would also force you not to as some of you imply your forced. God gives freewill, and allows things to happen on their own so people can have a true intimate faith, not faith based on seeing. The world says Seeing is to believe, God says To believe is to see.

    November 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • sirhuxley

      Faith, light, god, blah blah

      You are an evolved primate, you don't know any more than anyone else Mr. Mystical...

      November 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  10. HotAirAce

    Anyone ele wonder why the headline isn't "Atheist and Jew Get Their Day At . . ."?

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

      Lol, look at the post count. That's why.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • lol??

      Standard Christian doctrine would have your designation as not-a-Jew.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
      • Maddy

        Didn't bother to read the story, did you?

        November 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
        • lol??

          CNN story?? Just the first sentence or two. The rest is probably same ol', same ol' filler. heh heh heh

          November 6, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • Maddy

          And argument from ignorance? Typical.

          November 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  11. Humble_hearted

    Well this has definately helped kill time at work πŸ™‚ Peace and Love ya'll HAVE A GREAT REST OF YOUR DAY WHERE EVER YOU ARE IN THE WORLD! LOVE YA!

    November 6, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • lol??

      Wire money. STOP Soon

      November 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
      • Hope

        Yes, we sure do hope that you STOP soon, lolly.

        November 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  12. Michael G

    For all of you that believe that prayer works, I have a challenge for you. The next time you or a loved one gets seriously ill, don't go to the doctor or the emergency room. Just pray. If pray works, this shouldn't be a problem for you. A couple in Pennsylvania recently tried this when one of their children became ill with a totally treatable illness. The child died, and the parents were brought up on charges. I hope they do to jail where they belong because, sadly, this is the second child they've lost this way! They are guilty of two murders.

    So, how much more proof do you need???

    November 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • sybaris

      Nah, a better testament of faith would be for a Christian to cut their arm off and then fire up the prayer chain to get all their church goobers to pray for their god to grow it back.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Humble_hearted

      I heard about that story and if I'm not correct, they are christian science believers O_o
      I don't agree with what they did...I believe in God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. This challenge will be very hard for a lot of believers if they are not walking in the New Testament ways.

      My job as a christian is to love God's children and that alone can be a challenge because I'm not perfect. I recently stopped taking medicine because it makes it worse instead of better. But everyone isn't me. The problem that believers have is they don't know how to minister. Because even some "believers" don't believe (believe it or not). I'm so confident in this fact. If we would just love, and not force any belief or opinion on one another, we would get so much done, but that's not the way God made us. I Thank God for people's opinions and views even if they aren't mine. All I can do, if my part πŸ™‚

      November 6, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
      • Charm Quark

        Is that you Topher?

        November 6, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Mark

      Sounds like dodo reasoning. Lol

      U idiot

      Rest assured fool, god does not include the ordinary to answer prayers.

      I'm hungry god.
      Get up and make a sandwich.
      No, u make it for me

      November 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
      • Michael G

        Nope. It is purely rational. The Bible says God answers prayer. "Ask and ye shall receive". it does not put any stipulations on it. Either he does or he doesn't. It is obvious to anyone who isn't delusional that whatever God there may be does not bend the rules of biology, chemistry, physics, or medicine for anyone. You have to have your head buried in the sand to believe anything else. The proof is simply overwhelming. If God won't step in to save a child with cancer, he certainly isn't going to help you or me.

        November 6, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
        • 116

          yes you are right, but you are also wrong, ask and ye shall receive, receive what? you will receive an answer, yes or no, God has the right to say no you your request if it serves a higher more Godly purpose or if what you are asking for is for bad intensions.

          November 7, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Jake

      Actually, there have been studies that show (surprise!) that prayer does not help people recover. In fact, if those receiving prayers are AWARE that they are being prayed for, their recovery rate reduces slightly, but significantly. One theory is that by knowing that people are praying for them, the patient feels increase pressure / responsibility / guilt which has a negative effect on their condition.

      So whether you're religious or not, if you want to pray for a loved one, be sure not to tell them you're doing so.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
      • ScienceSoma

        You are quite right – this is the Templeton Foundation study in 2006.

        November 6, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
        • sirhuxley

          ...and don't forget that the Templeton Foundation is a Pro-Christian organization.

          November 6, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  13. theoriginaljames

    Most of the justices will pray for guidance from god before rendering a decision.

    November 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Michael G

      That doesn't prove anyone is listening or will help them. They could just as easily pray to Zues with the same outcome.

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

        Proof?

        Nice try, fool

        November 6, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
        • Mark

          Proof? Nice try, fool.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • Maddy

      And if they follow the Constitution as they are supposed to, they will not let their religion sway the correct decision.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
      • Mark

        How's snake, alqaeda?

        November 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
        • Muddy

          Huh?

          November 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
        • Akira

          How's the lawsuit, liar?

          November 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
        • Maddy

          My goodness, but you're a freak.

          November 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
        • Hope

          I suppose that we can be glad that the troll stays so busy on here harassing folks that he doesn't ever get anything real done...

          November 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      And I don't have an issue with that, now if they opened the session by sacrificing a chicken there would be a problem.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
      • Akira

        Not to mention messy.

        November 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
        • lol??

          Not supposed to use road kill chickens that were crossing the road.

          November 6, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Sara

      We have no way of knowing whether they will or not. You can't realistically get on the supreme court unless you claim to believe in god, so we don't even know what these folks actually believe.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  14. sybaris

    Oooo, it's The Persecuted Chrtistian Whine Time. I'm gonna play. Let's see we have:

    Bibles in every motel room
    God on our money
    Prayer before public events
    Christian cable networks 24/7
    Discounts on insurance for being Christian
    Churches every 6 blocks in every city over 100,000
    Laws that prevent non-Christians from holding public office
    Christian bookstores in every town over 12,000
    God in the Pledge of Allegiance
    Televangelists 24/7
    Christian billboards along the highway advertising Vacation Bible School and β€œRepent or go to He.ll”
    Federally recognized Christian holiday
    Radioevangelists 24/7
    Religious organizations are tax free
    75% of the population claims to be Christian
    National day of prayer
    God in the National Anthem
    Weekday Christian education for elementary students.
    Christian clergy led prayer at Presidential inauguration

    Do I win?!

    November 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Dapper Dan

      No. We all lose.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  15. Humble_hearted

    There is no balance in eliminating one or the another. There has to be a common ground. Where believers don't feel supressed and oppressed from their prayer life. And there has to be a way to make the non-believer feel involved without imposing in their comfort zone. But who am I? I'm just humble_hearted enough to say, there is an opportunity to love and respect one another without FORCING anyone to compromise...

    November 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Why is no mention of religion, pro or con, not a good compromise? I have answered your questions I think you need to answer this one.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
      • Humble_hearted

        I believe that its not a fair compromise because both parties aren't satisfied. Where there is strife and inequality, you will always have a problem. And sense this isn't like marriage where a woman or man has to compromise and be submissive, then I don't see a compromise ever happening. As a believer, I wouldn't be phased by us not praying because Ill pray in the car...Ill pray when I get there, and I will keep my mind stayed on business the remainder of the time. But remember that's just me. I'm not a religous zealot ^_^ so I guess again to answer your question, since there will always be one or the other with an issue, its not fair to either party to stop or keep going. there has to be a common ground.

        November 6, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
        • Sara

          True there is no compromise with someone whose religion requires them to pray in public at meetings, but that is not the case with Christianity, whose fundamental text actually tells folks not to do this.

          November 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  16. hisgoodteenr

    An honest question to believers: what if the tables are turned and each local board meeting is preceded with the group recital of the statement " There is no god, let's proceed", how would you feel?

    November 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Humble_hearted

      Honestly I would feel so uncomfortable; however, me and maybe just me, I believe in the power of prayer so much that I would prayer over my employment. I would fast and ask God how he wants me to handle this. Should I stay, should I leave, or should I intercede. I don't believe a lot of people get to see the spiritual side of what Christian believe. I love everyone, my place is not to judge lest I be judged...I've been taught that the same judgement I pass on people will be passed on me...Also Know As KARMA.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        I think the line "Give unto Ceaser what is Ceasers" would apply. Keep the two seperate. I would not want the gov't meetings to open with "There is no god" any more that I want it to open with a prayer.

        November 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
        • lol??

          In americult yer supposed to have Masters and Public Servants. The Masters are the Caesar. Yer upside down.

          The controversy is a diversion for more dastardly deeds. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap!!

          November 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
        • Maddy

          Are you ever going to attempt to make sense?

          November 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
      • Akira

        Actually, just get on with government business as it is supposed to be.

        November 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
      • Charm Quark

        Is that you Topher?

        November 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  17. Yakobi

    To the one or two xtians around (incidentally, notice how it's always xtians who want THEIR religion in our government?) who still don't get it, ask yourselves this: Who is harmed more, the atheists who have to put up with prayer in government, or the xtians in government who aren't allowed to group pray before an official meeting?

    November 6, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • Sara

      As the percent of Muslims in this country continues to rise you'll see these folks change their tune quickly.

      November 6, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • sirhuxley

        Bingo!

        November 6, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  18. Humble_hearted

    I wonder how this conversation would go if we all sat down and talked about it...I don't like to speak on anything I don't know a lot about, but what I have accessed from the comments is that non-believers are tired of being forced to endure reliegous practices while believers preach fire and brimstone in the government. Believers don't like being "oppressed" because of their right to practice what they believe while non-believers oppressing someone who truly is praying that the meeting go according to love respect peace and results that will help this nation... Again just a brief (opinionated) observation

    November 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I think you are asking an honest question, I answered your question on the previous page to explain the difference between an individual praying and a gov't sanctioned prayer. If you would like to discuss it respond to that point.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
      • Humble_hearted

        Thx πŸ™‚ I'll go check it out.

        November 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Indian Nation

      We want our witch doctor to perform a dance to ward off evil spirits, are you okay with that?

      November 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
      • Subliminal Criminal

        Heck yeah! I read it in an old book, and it is the direct word of Haduji, the all powerful witch god. Can I prove it? Sure, just read the book. Why would it lie?

        November 6, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      As an atheist I want a civil government free of religion so that it works for all of the governed. I do not want any special status or treatment, everyone should be treated exactly the same. Christians, on the other hand, do want special status. They claim this country was founded on their ideals like it should give them some extra large helping of the American pie. They demand their rights to force the rest of us to sit there while they prattle on at official meetings about their God and why they feel so persecuted, and for Christians that is a favorite past time even though they are far and away the majority here in America. But the way they tell it they are the small persecuted group of apostles just trying to get by and wondering why everyone is picking on them. They spout about the war on Christmas when anyone suggests we might pare it down a bit from the nearly two full months it enjoys each year. They shout about their religious rights being infringed because people they don't agree with also want to get married and enjoy the same privileges they do as if someone was forcing them to get gay married. I believe a large part of their delusion comes from early indoctrination when they were told that by being Christian they would be persecuted like Christ, so when they find little things they deem persecution they hold onto them like a badge of honor regardless of whether they are actually being persecuted. The idea of persecution is appealing to them and validates their faith even if purely imagined.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Humble_hearted

      Ok...I guess what I'm not understanding is, what is "Government Prayer?" Is it taking the religous act into the atmosphere of Government? Genuine question

      November 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
      • Just the Facts Ma'am...

        Here are some sample civil meeting agendas:

        1. Open meeting
        2. Discuss local governance
        3. take votes on proposed laws
        4. Close the meeting

        or

        1. Open the meeting by bowing heads in reverence to some unknown invisible being and ask that being for guidence.
        2. Discuss local governance
        3. take votes on proposed laws
        4. Close the meeting

        Is it so hard to see the difference and why non-believers might object to agenda #2?

        No one is objecting to any members doing that prayer and asking for guidence on their own, it just should not be part of a civil government sanctioned meeting as that meeting is for everyone, not just the believers.

        November 6, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
        • Humble_hearted

          No "it is not hard to see" as you stated. I am asking questions because I am curious about everyone's opinion. Not in a way to be rude, but to genuinly get us to talk about it. I figured sense we all have opinions and questions, we can speak respectively about it. I was successful in asking question and getting genuine responses in return. πŸ™‚ I just wish we could converse like this more often. From CNN to our Governments. Lets respect each other in a way that Christians are ranting and non believers are complaining.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          humbled,

          The problem is some Christians think not being allowed to state their belief in and during the functions of gov't equated to being persecuted and silenced and take it as a personl attack on their belief when the fact of the matter is if no religious belief is mentioned one way or the other everyone is on equal footing. Those christians seem to be arguing they want to be "more equal", it is an absurd position.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
        • sirhuxley

          Well, I ask why Christians would object to the first sequence?

          As far as we Freedom Loving Americans, we don't want prayers at Governement meetings because we don't want to even flirt with a Christian agenda that seeks to associate Government authority (ie. Police Power) with Christianity.

          We do not want impressionable young people to think that the Preacher Man and the Police Man are working for the same team.

          We do not want Police Men to be influenced by their religious beliefs when imparting the law for their Christian Friends.

          November 6, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Michael G

      The founding fathers wisely believed in separation of church and state. They had just fought a war to get away from the tyranny of the Church of England, which had corrupted the government. They knew all too well what happens when people who practice religion also run the government. It does not work. The first amendment clearly states that the government shall not promote religion, but that is exactly what happens when a government meeting is opened with a Christian prayer.

      Those of us who are not religious think religion is based in ignorance and super-sti-tion, and don't want to be subjected to it. People have the right to be ignorant, but not on our dime, and not on our time. A government meeting is to conduct the business of the people – and nothing else. It's not the place for a demonstration of witchcraft, a review of fishing conditions, or the practice of religion. It is a business meeting.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
      • Humble_hearted

        Was the originated doctrine a certain demonination? For example you stated that the law was based off of seperating, "from the tyranny of the Church of England, which had corrupted the government."

        November 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
        • Michael G

          Yes. It was essentially catholic. Protestantism didn't until the 1600s. If you really want to understand the origins of Christianity and the Bible, check out the following essay – bidstrup 'dot' com 'slash' bible 'dot' htm.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
      • Humble_hearted

        Thank you Michael G πŸ™‚ I will check it out

        November 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
      • Glenn

        To be correct the 1st amendment does not use the word promote or endorse. It simply states shall not establish. Establish is quite different from promote or endorse. Yes I am aware that the Supreme Court has ruled many times on the establish vs. endorsement argument however we still have prayer in government and in the military. Not to mention religious icons on our government buildings as well as money.

        November 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
        • Sara

          99+ % of the religious icons are Christian and almost all monotheistic as is what was added to our money and the pledge. This is essentially establishment of a state religion, albeit with weak power.

          November 6, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  19. Michael G

    Christianity has its roots in the p-a-g-a-n religions that came before it. There is not one original thing about it. Every single Bible story is a rehash of an older m-y-t-h, or story from an older religion. Jesus is a m-y-t-h. There were many historical writers during the time of his supposed life, including some who wrote detailed histories of Herod, the San Hedrin court, and of the Roman Empire – and not a one mentions him. Why? Because he never existed.

    Mark wrote the first gospel some seven decades after the supposed life of Jesus. He, nor any of the other gospel writers ever met him. Proof – Mark wrote that Jesus was from Nazareth. Nazareth didn't exist back then. If Mark had met Jesus, he would never have made that mistake.

    Get over it. Christianity is nothing but a collection of m-y-t-h-s, and s-u-p-e-r-s-t-i-t-i-o-n-s. Do some research into its origins, and you'll find out that I am right.

    November 6, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Irrelevant. There are no gods. All religion is based on fallacy.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  20. Christopher

    I refuse to get into debates with non believers and will not respond. My message is to those of you who are true believers in Jesus Christ and know the Word of God as the Truth which is written in the Holy Bible. Do not get caught in verbal or written debates with them. It is the governments and courts that are taking Christianity out of our everyday lives and allowing the non believers to have their way so as not to offend them. All I say to you is Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah and the Great Flood. Prophesies that were fulfilled and more prophesies are being fulfilled each and ever day. Jesus told His disciples that they would be hated and persecuted. All I say to you to love thy enemies and pray for those who persecute against you. Be strong and live life as Jesus would want you to. Don't give in. We need to be a strong voice, the voice of God. This is the Ministry that God has given me. Show the non believers of just how powerful Jesus' love is for you and how much you love Him. If the non believers can take the blinders off and see the power of God then they will be saved. If not they will be judged, not by us but by God.

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

      Spoken like a true middle/eastern extremist.

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

      Would you say that your statement is spiritual vs. religious? Genuine question.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Prof

      Just show one miracle by God, just one.....Sandy, Catrina, 9/11, Sandy Brooke, Aurora Movie theater....where he showed his power to protect innocent kids.Oh, well he could not even protect his children in his own church from child predators......

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

      Belief is not truth, if it were there would be only one religion, one god. Mull that around in your willfully ignorant head for a while.

      While you're at it, please look up the No True Scotsman Fallacy

      November 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "It is the governments and courts that are taking Christianity out of our everyday lives" lol

      No Christian has been banned from being a Christian or banned from attending Church or even praying. All any of the rest of us want is an equal civil government that works for all regardless of religion or gender or s e x ual preference. What is so freaking hard to understand about that? No one is forcing anyone to get gay married or forcing them to take birth control or get abortions, so if you Christians don't want to do those things, then don't. It's that simple. 80% of the abortions in this country would vanish if the Christians who are so vocally against it just stopped getting them. To bad being Christian set's you up so easily for being a hypocrite.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Well Duh

      "It is the governments and courts that are taking Christianity out of our everyday lives and allowing the non believers to have their way so as not to offend them."

      It is only the removal of religion from our government inst!tutions I have seen, as our Const!tion says there should be no religion in our government. I have not seen any removal of churches, denial of people attending churches, removal of religious radio or TV broadcasts, etc.

      Stop acting the government is trying to remove religion in all aspects of your life. You sound like a whiny drama queen.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • ?

      Chris...
      Do you need money, how much, don't go loco like Oral Roberts and ask for $8 million, I can spare a few bucks, where should I send it? Praise de Lord.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • NickZadick

      Why do you need fairy tales to act with love and understanding? I do not believe in your ridiculous myths and I am one of the kindest and generous people you could ever meet. But it is not for following Jesus and beign loving that I object to your cult! It is because you (theists) claim non-beleivers will rot in hell for simply not believing your compilation of stories written by MEN...and by men you know nothing about and seem to think they wrote what your sky daddy dictatrd....somehow!

      November 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
      • NickZadick the Idiot

        Personally, I like fairy tales cause chics dig em

        November 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
        • NickZadick the idiot the idiot

          Sooooo... you like pre-teens do you?

          November 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
      • NickZadick the Idiot

        Personally, I like fairy tales cause chics dig em!

        November 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Apparently Christopher has his fingers in his ears while chanting "nanner-nanner, can't hear you".
      Ah, such open minds these xtians have! And they're always willing to listen to reason and debate facts.

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

      That is right Christopher, don't open yourself up to scrutiny, your dogma might get away from you.

      Just stick your fingers in your ears and repeat "LA LA LA LA LA LA"....it is much safer that way.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      You say you refuse to get in to debates with us, did you seriously expect us to be quiet on this? You do make this claim and I'm curious as to how you know this: "now the Word of God as the Truth which is written in the Holy Bible".

      November 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Subliminal Criminal

      Somebody doesn't understand what a proper noun is.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • Michael G

      Chris, you do know that the Bible was written by men, and is riddled with factual errors on virtually every page, don't you? You also know that every single story in the Bible is borrowed from old myths, and from older pagan religions, too, don't you?

      And if prayer works, why do kids die of cancer every day? Did their parents just forget to pray???

      I challenge you to do some research into the origins of Christianity and the Bible. You are in for a rude awakening. There may very well be a creator, but the concept of God was created by man to explain the unexplainable, and Christianity is also a creation of man – not the creator.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Akira

      If you are speaking only to fellow believers, don't you think they already know and believe this, therefore rendering this post a waste of keystrokes?

      November 6, 2013 at 3:15 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.