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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. Mike S

    Prayer does not belong at town meetings. Not in any way, shape, or form. What's the big deal to not have them anyway? Are people going to burst into flames if they don't pray at a political meeting?

    November 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      wonder what these christian zombies would do if the Greece town boards were prefaced with muslim prayers.

      Thankfully kids are losing their beliefs today.. Brainwashing down.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Joe_in_Indy

      No they don't belong. Do your religious stuff outside or before coming in. There is no good reason to show off your religion except to proselytize and that is definitely not allowed.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  2. D

    Catholic here, but do not think prayer should be made into a public thing when it would be a stumbling stone to others. I think Jesus was pretty clear about not using prayer as a public display of righteousness, when he said to go do it in a closet or something to avoid those troubles.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      I was catholic.. then I saw first hand the lies and deceit of the catholic pope, bishops and cardinals. They committed the worst crimes, the cover ups. Those crimes destroyed the child.. What a puke bunch

      November 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
      • SmartLawyer

        The Catholic Church doesn't speak for God or for Christianity.

        November 2, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Really? What do they do then?

          November 2, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          ah,, but being christian helped them escape the crimes. If it were a national day care center, the pope, bishops and cardinals would be in jails worldwide.

          November 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  3. marc

    I'm Christian, but the government is no place for religion. If the city is going to use government buildings for prayer services, they need to exempt those who are not Christians from taxation, let Christians pay all the costs.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • karl from az

      Don't use the word 'Christian' to describe yourself!

      November 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
      • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

        good point.. christian is a customer buying vapor.

        November 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
      • Matthew Grant

        You have no right to tell anyone how they choose to be described. I do not believe in such labels but if that person chooses to be called a Christian than that person has every right to do so.

        November 2, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  4. Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

    we can all rest knowing secular society has tamed christians and muslims in the USA. Hadn't they, it'd be like the middle east here, except with christains.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • SmartLawyer

      I understand it must be uncomfortable for you living in a country founded by christians and established by christian ideals – the Mayflower compact and Winthrop's Little Speech must be too much for you to bear. That's okay, you'll be alright.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
      • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

        yes,, those wonderful christians who killed over 11 million indians..

        No,, this country was founded by people.. secular.

        November 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
      • Observer

        SmartLawyer,

        You made a great choice as the example for Christians: Thomas Jefferson was not a Christian and thought the Bible was loaded with nonsense.

        Oooops.

        November 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
      • Commenter

        SmartLawyer,

        Many of those original settlers were fleeing British religious rules which didn’t agree with theirs - they actually wanted MORE strict religious rules in government, btw, and the Brits told them to bug off.

        Many of the communities that the Pilgrims & Puritans set up were quite religiously restrictive and exclusive and persecutory in their own ways.

        Thank goodness that the Plymouth Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not prevail when the Const.itution was written 150 years later!

        November 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  5. SmartLawyer

    Here's the problem with atheists and anti-theists: they could never have founded this country, since our country was founded on the argument that all men are created equal by God, and these God-given rights could not be taken away by man, be it a King or other tyrant, as Jefferson so elegantly wrote in the Declaration of Independence.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      and you posted pure silliness.

      That's OK, when you grow up, you'll understand.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
      • SmartLawyer

        That's a pretty compelling argument you got there.

        November 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          based on your childish logic?? what else could anyone say.

          No replace the word 'god' in your posts with 'santa' and then read it to yourself.

          Great logic there..

          November 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
        • SmartLawyer

          Except for the fact that Jesus was a real historical figure and Santa is not you have quite an argument. You have a future as a game show host kid, don't let anyone tell you any different.

          November 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          there were lots of jesus stories. In fact the christian jesus story doesn't hold water. ie Pilate denied jews burial and if crucified they were required to remain on the cross even after there were only bones left.

          and that's just the beginning of the RCC con you people bought.

          November 2, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Observer

      A smart lawyer would ACTUALLY know that the following words NEVER appear in the Consti-tution, which sets up the laws for our country:

      God
      Christ
      Jesus
      Christianity
      Bible.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • SmartLawyer

        "...in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven" Hmmm.

        November 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
        • Observer

          SmartLawyer,

          That is how the date was given by everyone. It has NOTHING to do with the laws in the Consti-tution.

          Oooops.

          November 2, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Thanks for reminding us of yet another single-religion-based tradition that is rightfully going away, but not fast enough.

          November 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      if you think all the founding fathers were christian, you are ignorant of your history.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Roger that

      "The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion."

      John Adams
      2nd U.S. President

      November 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • Roger that

      "What have been Christianity's fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superst ition, bigotry, and persecution."

      James Madison
      4th U.S. President

      November 2, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      smartlawyer, try applying occam's razor to your statement "all men are equal by God". remove "by God" as it is unnecessary and you're left with "all men are equal." let's just keep that. and btw, here's some interesting quotes from the founding fathers that you believe were all so christian:

      "Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law."
      - Thomas Jefferson

      "Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies."
      - Thomas Jefferson

      " The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity."
      - John Adams

      "Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."
      - Benjamin Franklin

      November 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • johnfmayer

      Not much of a history buff, are you? Jefferson, Franklin and others specifically challenged the divinity of Christ who may or may not have been an historical figure (there is no real evidence that he was) and some, like Thomas Paine, were openly atheistic. So … you're wrong.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Dave Green

      Sure we could. It wouldn't be exactly the same, but you can absolutely reason the same end result without the need for evoking a god. Yes, the declaration of independence would not have been worded as it was, but to claim you can't reason equality without pointing to some **absolute** objective basis, is simply untrue. I could just as easily say: "And as we believe that all humans are equal in nature, having come into this world in exactly the same way....etc"...No difference what so ever, other than it's contradiction to YOUR personal belief.

      not to mention the fact that there is no actual evidence for this absolute objective basis, so in the end it is simply thrown up there as an axiomatic symbol with no basis. You could just as easily have thrown any symbol out there and called it the objective basis and that's pretty much what people do anyway.

      November 2, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  6. Dave

    Move to Iran and tell them you dont believe in God and see what happens. Not so bad here after all huh?

    November 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      almost seemed like you had a point...

      November 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • Peregrine

      Or Dave you could move there and tell them you're Christian and find out what atheists feel like here, Iran being a moderate country. You could also move to Somalia, tell them you're a Christian, and find out what religious persuasion is really like.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  7. guest

    This is a tridition, nobody is insisting, or teaching anything about any religion. Just because she belives there is no god doesn't mean that she jas to put her beliefs on others, most likely most of the people are not religious anyway.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • Observer

      guest,

      Wake up! She is not advocating atheism at government functions.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      her beliefs on others? hahaha, what a joke. she's not saying she wants to give speeches on why the idea of god is silly - that would be pushing her ideas on others. christians are pushing their ideas on others - get the facts straight.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  8. Nero

    AHAAAA MAN BROTHER, ooops, I mean well said........lol

    November 2, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  9. SmartLawyer

    Right now the government is praying for HealthCare.gov to work, we should get the Supreme Court to make them stop!

    November 2, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  10. george t hibs

    Oh I guess we now have a new class of people; LGBT and Atheist. I am certain the Supreme Court will give them whatever they want as they have so recently demonstrated. Why not settle on just a moment of silence for the people in attendance to say a prayer of their own choosing. Those that wish to pray to God may do so and those that wish to pray to the devil may do as well. I due not know how to satisfy Susan since technically Jews believe in God too. ???

    November 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      Clint Eastwood during the GOP talking to an empty chair, no different than religious praying.

      I'm not into christian and muslim witchcraft.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Observer

      george t hibs,

      We seem to have two classes of people: those who believe that "all men are created equal" and should have equal rights and then there is your side.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      sounds like you are angry that christianity's special status is being revoked. i know, it sux, you'll be equal with all other belief systems. boohooohooo!

      November 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  11. SmartLawyer

    Funny how the same people who insist God doesn't exist are so troubled by the mention of his name.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      not true,, then again, religious love to make up things.

      We like to think we evolved. I understand you believe you didn't and I'd agree. Just wish you would evolve one day.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
      • SmartLawyer

        When you produce the common ancestor that you imagine you and the apes evolved from, you'll have an argument. Until then, you're practicing the faith of Darwinism.

        November 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          produce your god.. oops,, you can't. Love your fantasies.

          November 2, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
        • Jeff

          you could settle this arguement by producing some evidence of your god

          November 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
        • SmartLawyer

          Produce my god? Sure, open a history book and read about the life, death and empty tomb of Jesus Christ. Or are 24,000 manuscripts and 17 extra-biblical non-christian sources too few for you? Perhaps you find Plato's 12 surviving manuscripts more compelling.

          November 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
        • MIke.

          Regilion is a smile on a dog.

          November 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
        • johnfmayer

          There is no need to produce a "common ancestor," an organism that emerged from primordial slime, to understand the process—if one has a smattering of awareness of the scientific method (and, apparently, more "smarts" than are required for a law degree)—that produced life on earth, any more than one must recreate the first hominid language in order to communicate. The process of evolution is well-researched and well-understood in its overall framework if not in every minute particular. The evolution of a messiah born of a virgin mother who dies and is resurrected into the modern concept of Christ has also been well-studied. Religion has no place in the government my godless tax dollars finance.

          November 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Ummm. . . The Smithsonian has explicitly stated The Babble is not a historical doc.ument. When NotSmartLawyer or someone of his ilk convinces the Smithsonian to change their view, I'll consider changing mine. Until then, The Babble will remain a steaming pile of bad fiction, only taken seriously by mentally ill delusionals.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      we are when it's in a gov't building.

      pray at your house, a church or a park - but not a courtroom or classroom. pray before you get to work.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  12. ROB

    Seems like 2 feel that 94,000 should be force to change just because of them. Typical self center brats. If they don't like it. Come in after the prayers. It would be a nice change if the majority ruled like a republic is SUPPOSED to work

    November 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Jeff

      people get so defensive when you don't honor their imaginary friends

      November 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
      • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

        christian and muslim voodoo belongs in their caves, churches

        November 2, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      it would be wonderful to keep religion out of government as our founding fathers meant it.

      Christian and muslim witchcraft should be kept in church.

      USA laws trump religious rules.. We own you. Religious rule is no different than kids tree house rules

      November 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • Observer

      ROB,

      So there are 2 atheists and 94,000 believers in Greece, NY?

      You are purely delusional.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Jeff

      that is not how our country is supposed to work. it doesn't matter if ninety percent of a town doesn't want a ethnic person living there

      November 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • Doris

      "2 feel that 94,000 should be force to change"

      Uhhhhhhhhh no. The states ratified the Consti-tution and its Amendments. Blame the state if it is only now living up to what it ratified.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • bs1

      There may be two plaitiffs, but statistically in that 94,000 or so population there is likely 15,000 athiests or agnostics, and numerous other non-christians.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  13. DANIEL

    How is it so hard to understand that America was founded to be free of Religious Persecution. We are all taught that in school at an early age. There should be no prayer in government. A simple moment of silence for people to say their personal prayers would suffice. Its a simple question of logic. Prayer is for Church. Simple as that. We should all be ashamed of our past and constantly working to improve the future.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Doris

      Yet within the U.S., the persecution "complex" continues...

      "If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England."

      –Ben Franklin (in London, from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772)

      November 2, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Jan

      I can understand why, for Believers, prayer must be included in all important aspects of life rather than limited to church. I also feel ostracized and excluded by govt. events (political, public school, etc.) including religious practices. Besides the "moment of silence for personal centering, meditation, reflection, &/or prayer," I see no problem with a separate, public prayer offering to inspire those who choose to be present for it before or after civic events, but held outside of where the event itself takes place.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  14. LouAZ

    Bumper Sticker: If You Won't Pray In My School I Won't Think In Your Church

    November 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      one of the best saying yet..

      November 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • SmartLawyer

      "Come now, let us reason together..." isaiah 1:18. Yes, there are a lot of non-thinking people in this debate, but they're not the ones in church.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
      • G to the T

        Hey – I'd love to see the "17 extra-biblical non-christian" sources you stated earlier. I'm only aware of a couple (Tacticus and Josephus) and all either do is relate that christians existed at that time and what they believed. Not really a historical testament is it?

        November 5, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
  15. Ralph_in_FL

    Seems to me she could make her point simply by refusing to stand up for the prayer.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • sarah

      Maybe they should pay her at her income rate for the her time that they wasted with prayers.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
      • Bill Graham

        I agree!

        November 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Observer

      Ralph,

      Yep. And then the believers could all refuse to stand up when atheists rise for equal time and advocate that "God is Dead".

      November 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
      • Bill Graham

        "God" is a Teutonic idol.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Jeff

      i think just not having the prayer would be easier

      November 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
      • Bill Graham

        Exactly!

        November 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      that's not making a point.. Our founding fathers knew how destructive religions were to society.. Separation of church and state was meant to keep religion away from gov.. Not giving religions any special privileges or respect.

      KEEP OUT!

      November 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
      • Bill Graham

        Hear! Hear!

        November 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Ralph, let's assume you are an atheist who needs to go before a town council, loaded with believers, to get something done. How confident are you that you will be treated fairly after you indicate you are not a believer by not participating, dare I say not respecting, their cult's childish rituals?

      November 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
      • Bill Graham

        Excellent point!

        November 2, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  16. Jeff

    a bunch of nonsense, pray all you want on your own time and keep it to yourself

    November 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  17. will

    This is a free country , if she don't like what they are doing move out. What she's trying to do is cram her athiest belief on the whole town ,How wrong, so then they should go to the supreme court and have them tell her to quit forcing her belief on the whole town!!!

    November 2, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Observer

      will,

      Get a clue. She is not trying to force atheistic beliefs on the town.

      She is saying there should be NO religious involvement in government meetings. She is NOT saying they should advocate atheism during meetings.

      Wake up!

      November 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
      • guest

        I disagree with you, she certainly is trying to force her beliefs on others; there is no god. She is just prejustice against those who wish to envoke [sic] the presence of a higher power.
        P.S. I think most of the time these people forget that they have invited the higher power to a.s.s.ist them in decsion making anyway.

        November 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          I hope she wins big!!!!

          November 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
        • G to the T

          Asking that your town obey the consti.tution doesn't sound like trying to force anything on anyone. It's just trying to make your local government compliant. Tradition is no replacement for our legal rights.

          November 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • sarah

      will, asking for government affairs be conducted free from religious involvement as our law indicates is not cramming anything anywhere. get real.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Jeff

      How about if you just do your little prayes on your own and not on government property

      November 2, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Jake

      Will – why are you a grownup with an imaginary friend? I outgrew that long ago. Reality is fun. Come join me!

      November 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  18. Alias

    The politicians are not trying to start a theocracy. they are just kissing up to the majority of the voters

    I think they need to pray to all gods worshipped in their district/area/whatever if they pray to any – but this is not worth the supreme court's time, or a threat to our government.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • Billy

      "The politicians are not trying to start a theocracy. they are just kissing up to the majority of the voters"

      Let's check in on some of the voters:

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0-04VDrCbM&w=640&h=360]

      November 2, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  19. Doris

    From the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment, "nclaw441" posted "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Followed by his/her comment: "In this case, no act of Congress, no law, no effort to establish religion. No violation."

    I'm sure when the court looks at any issue regarding rights, they also look at the 9th Amendment. One way I look at it is that all rights come with responsibilities, otherwise we step on each others' toes trying to exercise our own rights. Just because you may be able to legally buy and fire off drugstore grade fireworks in your jurisdiction does not give you the right to aim them at your neighbor's house.

    "Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

    The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State." –James Madison

    November 2, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      I like the '..no respect for religion."

      November 2, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  20. Dani3l

    It is possible, and even desirable, to offer an opening invocation that is truly inclusive, by focussing on the values of the occasion – equality under the law, engagement of the people in their own governance – and allowing a moment of silence so that all those may pray, or reflect upon their non-theistic ethics and principles. This excludes no one, and acknowledges diversity for its potential strength. If you want a sectarian, theistic, faith-based blessing, go to a place of worship. It shouldn't be in City Hall.

    November 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • kcv

      The problem is most of us thinks that this is a "Christian Country" when it's not, it's a country that is open to ALL beliefs and should not force JUST Christian beliefs on everyone. That was the principle that America was founded on, NO national religion. I I have no problem with any type of prayer, but now understand that The Ten Commandments and Christian references that are on the front of government buildings are AGAINST what this country was founded on. However; I think some atheist just like to make waves and trouble, let the people pray and move on. I'm not Muslim, but if I went to meetings in a mostly Muslim neighborhood and they prayed before the meeting then it's up to them, as long as I'm not forced to it's all good with me (I can wait outside). Christians have forced their beliefs on everyone instead of being inclusive, and now we're dealing with the backlash.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • MeThinks

      I agree.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • G to the T

      While I applaud your trying to comprimise, a moment of silence (traditionally!) is reserved for remembering those that have died. I don't believe opening a civic enterprise in this way is really appropriate. It's just a way to get around the problem rather than resolve it.

      November 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.