home
RSS
Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court
November 1st, 2013
04:39 PM ET

Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

(CNN)– Linda Stephens has lived in her upstate New York community for more than three decades and has long been active in civic affairs.

But as an atheist, those views have put her at the center of a personal, political, and legal fight that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue is public prayer at her local town board meetings, another contentious case over the intersection of faith and the civic arena.

The justices on Wednesday will hear arguments over whether Greece, New York, may continue sponsoring what it calls "inclusive" prayers at its open sessions, on government property.

Stephens and co-plaintiff Susan Galloway have challenged the policy, saying virtually all of those invited to offer legislative prayers over the years were Christians.

"It's very divisive when you bring government into religion," Stephens told CNN from her home.

"I don't believe in God, and Susan is Jewish, so to hear these ministers talk about Jesus and even have some of them who personally question our motives, it's just not appropriate."

The town of about 94,000 residents counters that after concerns from the two women and others, it sought diverse voices, including a Wiccan priestess, to offer invocations. Officials say they do not review the content of the remarks, nor censor any language.

"The faith of the prayer giver does not matter at all," said John Auberger, Greece's board supervisor, who began the practice shortly after taking office 1998. "We accept anyone who wants to come in and volunteer to give the prayer to open up our town meetings."

A federal appeals court in New York found the board's policy to be an unconstitutional violation of the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which forbids any government "endorsement" of religion.

Those judges said it had the effect of "affiliating the town with Christianity."

"To the extent that the state cannot make demands regarding the content of legislative prayers," said Judge Guido Calabresi, "municipalities have few means to forestall the prayer-giver who cannot resist the urge to proselytize. These difficulties may well prompt municipalities to pause and think carefully before adopting legislative prayer, but they are not grounds on which to preclude its practice."

Some legal experts say while the high court has allowed public prayers in general, it has not set boundaries on when they might become too sectarian in nature.

"The case involves a test between two different kinds of legal rules," said Thomas Goldstein, SCOTUSblog.com publisher and a leading Washington attorney.

"The Supreme Court has broadly approved legislative prayer without asking too many questions. But in other cases where the government is involved with religion, it has looked at lots of different circumstances. So we just don't know whether this court will be completely approving of legislative prayers in this instance."

The justices are now being asked to offer more firm guidelines over when and if such public prayers are constitutionally acceptable.

Felt marginalized

Galloway and Stephens say the elected board of the community outside Rochester almost always invited Christian clergy to open the meetings, usually with sectarian prayers. And they say they felt "marginalized" by the practice.

"When we tried to speak with the town, we were told basically if we didn't like the prayers, we didn't have to listen," said Stephens, "or could stand out in the hallway while they were going on."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Washington-based group that is representing the two women, cited records showing that between 1999 and 2010, approximately two-thirds of the invocations contained the words "Jesus Christ," Jesus," Holy Spirit," or "Your Son."

And the lawsuit claims that from 1999 through 2007, every meeting had a Christian-only invocation. Following the complaints from the plaintiffs, four other faiths were invited in 2008, including a Baha'i leader and a Jewish lay person.

The plaintiffs say the Christian-only invocations resumed from January 2009 through June 2010. They claim those invited to the monthly meetings were selected by a city employee from a local guide that had no non-Christian faiths listed.

"Politics and religion simply don't mix, and they certainly don't mix in the local context of the Greece town council," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, AUSCS executive director.

"The town seems to take the position that because once or twice over a decade, it hears from someone of a different religion, that somehow is inclusive. It trivializes what's going here - a local government that should be willing and interested in participation of all its citizens, it wants those citizens to participate in an almost inevitably Christian prayer, in order to begin doing their business."

Different rulings

While the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York last year unanimously ruled against Greece's policy, other courts around the country have found such invocations - if inclusive and limited in scope - to be permissible.

Congress regularly opens its sessions with a prayer. Wednesday's invocation by House Chaplain the Rev. Patrick Conroy began: "Eternal God, we give you thanks for giving us another day. Once again, we come to ask wisdom, patience, peace, and understanding for the members of this people's House."

Nearly 120 members of Congress, mostly Republicans, along with several state attorneys general have filed supporting legal briefs backing the city. So has the Obama administration.

"The history of prayers offered in connection with legislative deliberation in this country makes clear that a legislative body need not affirmatively solicit a court-mandated variety of different religious faiths– from inside and outside the borders governed by the legislative body– in order to avoid running afoul of the Establishment Clause," said Justice Department lawyers' in their amicus brief.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal ministry based in Scottsdale, Arizona, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Greece Town Board, saying the Supreme Court has upheld the practice of government bodies "to acknowledge America's religious heritage and invoke divine guidance and blessings upon their work."

"A few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation merely because they heard something they didn't like," said Brett Harvey, an attorney for the group. "Because the authors of the Constitution invoked God's blessing on public proceedings, this tradition shouldn't suddenly be deemed unconstitutional."

Stephens realizes the stakes are high for her community and for the law as a whole. But on a personal level, this legal fight has been tough.

"I've received something of a backlash, both Susan and me," the retired librarian said. "Threatening letters, some vandalism to my property, things like that. The prayers, and all the controversy, it makes you feel like an outcast, like we don't count in our town."

The case is Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway (12-696). A ruling is expected by early summer.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Courts

soundoff (6,237 Responses)
  1. quantumelf

    And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.

    -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

    November 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  2. Richard

    Matthew 6: 5-6
    King James Version (KJV)

    5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    Jesus said this about public prayer.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  3. Apple Bush

    The joyful myth and eager messenger;

    Stained glass soars to the rafters;

    Surely God is here, and yet this house is empty;

    No salesman can close;

    Lovely building full of lies, heard less prayers than cries;

    Sacred this and sacred that;

    Babies raped and priests zipping up their pants;

    No leads to follow;

    This is what Jesus witnesses from His lofty perch in that glass;

    Abuse the sheep and pay the tithe;

    Fill the tray and please don’t stay;

    Such a lovely cathedral, such a vile torture chamber.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • HereWeGoAgain

      Such a lovely rainbow of all colors;

      Men lay with men and Women lay with women;

      Aids spreading and reaching everyone;

      But all says it's ok and it's normal;

      Oh what a lovely sight;

      Oh what a lovely life;

      Soon there won't be anyone around anymore;

      For everyone will be dead from a vicious vicious;

      Oh what a lovely sight;

      And oh what a lovely life;

      I'm in awe in front of this wonderful rainbow that won't last;

      I'm in awe to know that life on the planet will be gone forever.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
      • HereWeGoAgain

        Correction "For everyone will be dead from a vicious virus"

        November 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Not sure what that was all about, but it is true that humans will be extinct one day just like 99% of every other living creature that ever lived on Earth.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          The problem is that it will happen way before it's due time.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          YOU know the due time? It is supposed to be an asteroid? A super volcano? Please, do tell!!

          November 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          There is a huge difference between something that will surely happen someday and something that will possibly happen someday.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I agree, but your post does not make that case. It makes the opposite argument. Disease "might" wipe out man kind but we don't know. I think you are just an idiot homophobe.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Me an h o mo p h o b e? I consider myself a realistic person, not afraid of anything but also am aware of whats in front of me. I'm not living in denial about the fact that we are heading straight into a brick wall fooling around with a virus like aids and pretending that it's ok. That is called being delusional my friend if you pretend that its ok to take that risk just because of the pleasure of having risky s e x life. That behavior has course that will end life faster that it should be.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Why don't you just admit you hate gay people and stop lying?

          November 2, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          I don't hate gays, but i do hate their lack of respect for life itself.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Please explain why you believe gays lack respect for life itself.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  4. bob

    "We accept anyone who wants to come in and volunteer to give the prayer to open up our town meetings."

    The point is that prayers are never appropriate at a government meeting/function/town-hall. Period. Many people find it extremely offensive when religion is forced on them.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • SmartLawyer

      Says who? You? I find a lot of things offensive that are pushed by the Left, does that give me a reason to stop their public display of their stupidity? So, if something is deemed offensive by one person it's off limits?

      November 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Smart guy, name one thing atheists have ever "pushed" on you.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
      • ME II

        @SmartLawyer,
        But, I'm guessing, those things are prohibited from the government by the Consti.tution.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Would you approve of a Muslim led prayer or a pagan blessing? In the case of too many government issues like this it is usually only one side represented for said prayer, how is that possibly fair treatment?

        November 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I will say that it is offensive that a public function includes a public prayer as part of its agenda. Yes, I do say it is. Having that prayer is saying that at least the organizers of the function want to begin by identifying themselves as belonging to a group that I do not belong to. That does not make me confident that I have an equal part in the proceedings as that of people who believe as they do.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Exactly. Good post.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  5. JCK

    If I believe that something does not exist I waste no time thinking about it. Why do athiests spend time and effort on something they do not believe to exist? I wonder if I offered her ten thousand dollars in bills that had " In God We Trust " printed on them, would she refuse it ? Does God exist ? I have no idea but one thing is certain, one day we will all find out and there is not one damned thing we can do to prevent that.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      We will never find out because we will be dead. Atheists understand the importance of keeping church and state separate. We are not interested in living in the dark ages.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
      • Marla

        If there is a God, you will find out after death. You will know that you were wrong and I will know that I was right. If there is no God, you will never know that you were right, and I will never know that I was wrong.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Marla, let the adults talk now honey, ok?

          November 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
        • G to the T

          You assume (incorrectly) that it's an either/or outcome. There being no afterlife and the afterlife as describe by christians (though this can vary wildly) are not the only possible options. There could be afterlife for all, there could be reincarnation, etc.

          November 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • SmartLawyer

      They do because deep down every atheist knows that God exists – they're just not at the point where they're willing to confront their moral rebellion.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • ME II

        Believers deep down know that God doesn't exist, they just can't handle being "good" on their own and need the threat of eternal torture to do the right thing.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
        • Marla

          "Deep down" as in the soul? Or deep down as in a neurotransmitter?

          November 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Deep down as in believers are either delusional or liars.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
        • Marla

          Apple Bushy: Do you believe in "free will." A soul has free will. A purely material being has no free will. Why judge theists for believing? You act as if people are "responsible" for their beliefs and actions.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
        • ME II

          @Marla,
          1) 'Deep down' as in sub conscious or emotionally or underlying motives.
          2) My point was that one should not assume to know what others are thinking 'deep down'.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
        • ME II

          @Marla,
          "A purely material being has no free will. "

          Why do you think that?

          November 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          People ARE responsible. Are you joking? And if you are Christian, then according to the bible free will is quite impossible. Me? Yes, I do believe in free will. I am an atheist.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
        • Opposing View

          You may find this hard to believe but there always has been people in this world who KNOWS with absolute certainty that God exists. And I'm not saying they only "believe" he exists, or they "have faith" he exists. I'm saying they know without any doubt and with absolute certainty he exists. Where they are as certain of it, as they are certain of their own existence. You may not be such a person. But such people do exist. I should know, because I'm one of them…

          November 2, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          You find this hard to believe, but you are nuts.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
      • Water to Whine

        It's not moral rebellion to deny the existence of god, it's social rebellion. Morality exists independently of religion. Religion is a social construct to keep those ignorant of the logic of morality in line. It could be true that all believe in god in some way, but one's definition of what god is could be wildly variant.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • Sean Lynch

        Support your claims.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Because mentally ill delusional believers often try to impose their silly beliefs on others through the passage, or hindrance, of legislation.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
      • Marla

        You imply that people are responsible for their beliefs. If there is no soul, no immaterial free will, and the only thing that exists is materialism, why judge me? I'm only acting out how I'm wired on a purely material neurological level.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Because most humans are part of a larger society and behavior norms (civil laws against which your actions are judged and for which you might be penalized) help folks get along, ideally with minimal harm to others?

          November 2, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Indeed, Marla. If you happen to be wired in a way that is harmful to the rest of us we can seek to control you, fix you, or switch you off.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
        • Leo

          Marla, you seem to be willfully misrepresenting people. Atheism is not materialism. It is simply the lack of belief in gods. You are trying to represent nonbelievers as boogeymen over this when they are regular people. Everything they experience during their lives is the same as yours with the exception of a belief in deities.

          November 2, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • Leo

      "I wonder if I offered her ten thousand dollars in bills that had " In God We Trust " printed on them, would she refuse it ?" Since that term has been forced on her, I'm sure she would accept. In a way, it's kind of the point of all this – please get the government out of the business of promoting gods. Your question is very similar to asking, "I wonder, when will believers hold their breaths on days named after gods they don't believe in?"

      November 2, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  6. SmartLawyer

    I'm willing to bet all of the people on this board who want to remove government entanglement with religion would also support the ACLU's attempt to force two christian inn keepers to hold a gay wedding on their property. This also became an issue when the Obama Admin forced Catholic Health Services to provide services that contradict their religious beliefs. Either we have a wall between church and state or we don't, and it's clear that most of those on the Left want it to be a wall with a door that only swings one way.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      SmartLawyer, you are confused and typically wrong. We know that there will always be bigots and those that discriminate. But mixing government and religion is clearly wrong. The does only swing one way on that issue.

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

        So you're okay with government entangling itself in the private affairs of individuals by forcing them to do things on their private property that violate their religious beliefs? That, my friend, is the very definition of tyranny.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
        • ME II

          Actually, the cases you're talking about are businesses that are offering products or services to the public. Discrimination is not allowed in such cases. Or do you think that "white-only" lunch counters should be legal again?

          November 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Not too smart are you. My post clearly states that the left puts up with you bigots and assholes, but not when it comes to having a government influenced by myths and superstition. We will fight you tooth and nail and never stop until your insanity is vanquished.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • Marla

          Obama prays for the country every time he says, "God bless America!" Do you hate Obama?

          November 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I don't hate anybody.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
        • Sean Lynch

          What kind of attorney are you and in what universe do you practice law?
          It would really suck if I hired you by mistake.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Wrong! The same principle applies in all three cases. Don't bring your personal religious believes into the public domain. If you offer the public a product, a service or employment, you can't discriminate based on your religious beliefs or your potential customer's or employee's beliefs. Very simple.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
      • SmartLawyer

        So now you're taking your definition of discrimination and bigotry and using the government as a blunt force object to force private individuals to violate their religious precepts. THAT is the very freedom that this country was founded on – the right to worship without some busy body telling them how to do it.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          As has been pointed out numerous times, you have the right to believe whatever you like, but you not have the right to practice your beliefs without restriction. Don't blame atheists for this – blame the legislators (virtually 100% believers) and the courts (US Supreme Court – 100% believers). But do continue to whine as your unwarranted special place in society is rightfully chipped away at.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Leo

      Baloney. I believe most would respect the rights of a private business owner to do business as they wish. You're trying to change the topic which is the government we ALL pay for should represent ALL.

      November 2, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  7. David Garrett Jr.

    An atheist and a Jew complained so they offered to bring in a Wiccan?

    November 2, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  8. Lionly Lamb

    I am a God-fearing, Christian-loving humanoid... Any questions regarding my beliefs..?

    November 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Yes, why must your ilk foist their beliefs on our government?

      November 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Sired Fred...

        Lumping all Christians into one bowel does no one any good... Just as many atheists do not think all alike, so it is with many Christians...

        November 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • Fan2C

          "Lumping all Christians into one bowel..."

          What a mental image!

          November 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • Water to Whine

      I'm a Christian-fearing, humanoid-loving god...call me if you need anything.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
      • Marla

        Whiney baby: I fear Mao and Stalin. These two atheists killed more people than all wars combined throughout history. Of course Doestoyevsky said it best, "If there is no God, then everything is permissible."

        November 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
        • G to the T

          I can understand your concern, but you are confusing personal atheist (a response to a proposition) and a state-sponsored cult of personality. I agree that tyranny is bad, whether it be atheistic, christian or other. These weren't anti-religion "in the name of atheism", they were anti-religion because they didn't want to share power (i.e. tyrant).

          Let me ask you this – would you prefer to live in a country where all religious beliefs are protected equally or one that only favors the majority? Keep in mind that christians may not always be the majority...

          November 5, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  9. SmartLawyer

    The problem people have with prayer isn't that they believe God isn't real – if they truly believed God didn't exist, then they would just stand smugly by and smile as others wasted their time (like I do when people get crazy about their fear that temperatures will rise 3 degrees farenheit in 100 years and that will be the end of the world as we know it). You kind of just laugh to yourself and say, "how can these people be so gullible?" No – the problem people have with prayer is that they do not want to be confronted with evidence of their moral rebellion. They've decided that they can live life without the order set down by God and make up their own rules as they go along. "As long as it doesn't hurt anyone, it's fine by me", which is nothing more than a creed for the self-absorbed that contains "rules" that somehow keep changing depending upon the perspective of the person involved. The truth is, you can't have morals without a moral lawgiver, and refusal to acknowledge God is nothing more than a doomed attempt to make yourself a god – which was the original bait offered by Satan, "and you will be like god."

    November 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • ME II

      "No – the problem people have with prayer is that they do not want to be confronted with evidence of their moral rebellion."

      Please don't claim to know the thoughts and intents of others. You just look foolish.

      "The truth is, you can't have morals without a moral lawgiver, and refusal to acknowledge God is nothing more than a doomed attempt to make yourself a god – which was the original bait offered by Satan, 'and you will be like god.'"

      If by morals you mean, an agreed upon system of ethical behavior, then sure you can. It is based upon empathy and reciprocity.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Is it moral to eat beef? Some say yes, some say no.

      Is it moral to eat pork? Some say yes, some say no.

      Is it moral to work on Saturday or Sunday or Friday or...? Some say yes, some say no.

      Is it moral for a female to show even an inch of uncovered skin in public? Some say yes, some say no.

      You want more...?

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

        It's obvious from your response that you have no idea what God has revealed to us in the Bible.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
        • Logical

          You mean what other humans have inscribed on parchments that were transferred into a book.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
        • Check

          SmartLawyer,

          "Revealed", eh? - like these:

          – You cure leprosy by having a dove killed, dipping a live one in its blood and having it fly around. Also, you have to anoint the toes of the suffer with the blood.–Leviticus 14

          – You discover unfaithful wives when their bellies swell and their thighs rot after they are made to drink some magical water. – Numbers 5

          – Prized striped goats are bred by having the mating parents stare at striped objects. –Genesis 30

          – You may buy, own, sell, and will slaves to your descendants (only foreigners for slaves, though, no Israelis) –Leviticus 25

          - “If two men are fighting, and the wife of one man tries to rescue her husband by grabbing the other man’s private parts, you must cut off her hand. Don’t have any mercy." Deuteronomy 25

          There are several other similar instances of absolute rubbish that this "God" "spoke", along with a bunch of other rules and laws that are obviously only from the minds of primitive men. How anyone can believe that this stuff came from a real smart divine being is ludicrous.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • xmxm

      Thanks for the good laugh! LOL!

      November 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Sired S.L....

      Many humanoids take little thought regarding their being but a celestially terrestrial physical embodiment of molecular sub-atomic machines living for the most parts as a harmonious body of cellular conditioning...

      November 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Anyone else suspect "SmartLawyer" is the new "The Truth"?

      November 2, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
      • EuphoriCrest

        He's certainly not living up to his pseudonym.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          I am not aware of any cases where The Truth lived up to his handle.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Peregrine

      SL, is this the same moral lawgiver that killed everything on the face of the planet because it wasn't going his way (which he should have known ahead of time)? Maybe the one who destroyed job's life and family to prove a point? Sent bears to kill children? Loves you but will torture you for all eternity (but needs money)? Says you can sell your children into slavery? Yeah, you can have him, our current morals are better.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  10. Huh?!

    So the lady and her friend are tired of having Jesus pushed in their faces every time they show up for atown event. I can understand that, I have relatives whgo can't mow their yards without invoking Jesus. Bewliever or not it gets kinda old. So she files a lawsuit. The city has two choices, respond to the suit or do something reasonable like replace the creepy dude yelling abut Jesus with a moment of silence. I cna kind of understand paying to defend the first suit. YOu ahve to show the bible thumnpers you love Jesus enough to throw money down the drain. But it's wound through several cases and they're only spending more and more money when there's a quicker, less costly answer. Actually there are more than one quick and less costly ansers. But NOOOoooooo, gotta defend the right of the creepy guy to push his religion on everyone when actually he HAS no such right. he HAS a right to believe and a right to prostelyze to groups when invited but he has NO right to do this simply because it's a government meeting. Creepy guy keeps getting invited back. They KNOW he's cauing problems, they KNOW they're spending money they don't have to they KNOW he's offending people (And not just atheists either, all sorts of other religious people who don't happen to be Christians) but they still invite him back. It's like they're TRYING to cause problems and discomfort for non-Christians. IF for no other reason than they're a bunch of morons they should all be voted out.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  11. Opposing View

    The problem is, atheists only think about their own rights and could care less about the rights of others. What about those people who disagree with her views and actually WANT public prayers? Don't they have rights too?

    I will only say this. Linda Stephens will not only have her day at the Supreme Court, but there is also day coming when she'll to stand before her creator and maker, and have to answer for her actions. It's going to be quite interesting to see how Linda explains to him why she's lived her life as an atheist. LOL…

    November 2, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "The problem is, atheists only think about their own rights and could care less about the rights of others. What about those people who disagree with her views and actually WANT public prayers? Don't they have rights too? "
      +++ wrong. YOU only care about CHRISTIAN rights. we want it to be equal - no homage to any god, no discussion about how god does not exist. no mention of god in a gov't building. YOU are the one that wants special treatment.

      want to pray? do it at home, in a church or at a park - but no in a courtroom, not in a classroom, not in a gov't building.

      stop crying, you're not being attacked.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
      • Opposing View

        Bootyfunk… Then feel free to crawl back into that hole you crawled out of and do that. No one is forcing you to do anything you don't want to do.

        People like you seem to forget – this is a free country. You cannot restrict other people from doing what they want to do or believing what they want to believe, even if your own personal views are different. If you don't want them restricting your views, then why do you seek to restrict theirs. The problem you face is you cannot make Christians shut up and go away without violating their rights. In the same way, we cannot make you shut up and go away without violating yours. So the only solution possible is we must all just try to get along and try to co-exist, with both views present in our society.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • ME II

      The law of the land says that the government can't endorse a religion. It's not about have equal say, it's about retricting government actions.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
      • matte

        The law of the land says that the government can't endorse or persecute you for your religion. I see no persecution here.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
        • ME II

          The government also isn't supposed to quarter troops on private property in times of peace.
          They aren't so all must be good, right?

          November 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Huh?!

      Sure, your *you're* right but if *she's* right which logically is more likely then you've wasted your life and have nothing to look forward to but nothingness. Which will be good for you becuase you'll not realize you've been cheated of those streets of gold and all those other earthly treasures that are supposedly in heaven. Why does a sprit need gold or milk and honey?

      November 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Ganesh

      Opposing View,

      And I'll be waiting to see how you defend yourself against Vishnu and Shiva + for not believing in and worshipping them. LOL...!

      November 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Jim P.

      "actually WANT public prayers? Don't they have rights too? "

      They can pray in public as often and as fervently as they wish. Not one among us would deny them that I think. But what they want in this case is for *you* to pray in public and me and everyone else and to have the power of government behind it, which is an entirely different matter.

      Each and every member of any council, board, senate or whatever can get together as private citizens and pray their little hearts out for hours at a time before or after a public, government meeting provided it is on their own time and with their own resources.

      When it is done officially, it invokes the power of government. It excludes those who do not share that particular faith or dogma especially as it has been shown over and over again that all these "inclusive" prayers are heavily weighted to Christianity and indeed certain specific forms of it.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Leo

      And there's the rub. Essentially you just said that only the people who agree with YOU should have their rights considered while admonishing these women for doing the same.

      By the way, while gloating about judgement day and ending your post with a hearty "LOL" to feed your ugly ego you truly came off as a jerk.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • jimbob

      What about people who "WANT" to commit murder. So what if it's illegal. What people "WANT" should take precedence...

      November 2, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • A traveler

      Nothing fails like prayer.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
      • mark edwards

        Better put on a heat suit, lol.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • mark edwards

      You are right on, I guess that people that don't believe think someone else will save them?? That would scare me, hopefully they pop out of it before it is too late.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • EuphoriCrest

      If, as you say, atheists "could care less" about the rights of others, then you're admitting that atheists DO care about other's rights.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  12. Vic

    Just wondering:

    The Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service is held at the Washington National Cathedral every four years, should that go to the courts since it's paid for by the taxpayers?!

    And the list goes on and on.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • ME II

      Probably, yes.

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

      Continuing On Earlier Post:

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/01/supreme-court-to-review-church-state-dispute-over-public-prayers/comment-page-5/#comment-2706727

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

      No. Noone is forced to attend the service and it is held on private private property. The real question is "Should a president be judged if they decide to have, or not have, an inaugural service?"

      November 2, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • ME II

        If it's paid for by taxes?

        November 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          I had not fully considered the aspect of cost. The government should not pay for anything above normal expenses for government leaders/employees, such as pointed out below.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
      • Vic

        Who pays for organizing the event, secret service, the motorcade, the service itself, etc.?! Taxpayers!

        November 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
        • ME II

          If it's just security for public officials that's at tax-payer expense, then there is no problem. Security is provided for them 24/7 anyway. If they aren't acting in an official capacity, then I see no problem.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • Doris

      Yes – it should go.

      Madison came to oppose the long-established practice of employing chaplains at public expense in the House of Representatives and Senate on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state and the principles of religious freedom. (See Library of Congress – James Madison Papers – Detached memorandum, ca. 1823.)

      From the Father of the Consti-tution & the Bill of Rights:

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

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

      November 2, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  13. uncleric

    It's about time.
    Nobody should be marginalized.
    I particularly hate the smirk arrogance of zealots.
    Atheism is just as relevant if not more so, as any religion.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • lol??

      Those late bloomers from Bloom sure are annoying. They covet too much.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  14. lol??

    Protesting public prayer is getting old. Why not protest pubic hair in the soup??

    November 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • midwest rail

      " Why not protest pubic hair in the soup?? "
      That would be comparable to protesting any of your witticisms.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  15. Reality # 2

    Only for the newbies:

    Free Will and Future are inherent to all the thinking beings in the Universe. This being the case, it is not possible to alter life with prayers or creeds. Statistically, your request might come true but it is simply the result of the variability/randomness of Nature..

    So put down your rosaries and prayer beads and stop worshiping/revering cows or bowing to Mecca five times a day. Instead work hard at your job, take care of aging parents, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to charities and the poor and continue to follow the proper rules of living as gracious and good human beings.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    November 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  16. Churn O'bill

    An atheist should lead the prayer by just saying, "Okay, let's skip the make-believe and get this meeting started. Amen."

    November 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  17. alanauer

    Sure it's a cherished tradition. Just like burning at the stake and slavery.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  18. Maunalani

    Public meetings in the United States have always begun with public prayer, from the beginning of our country.

    And let us not forget what Thanksgiving is, a national day of prayer declared each year by the President.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      then it's about time we finally evolved.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
      • krehator

        So YOU get to determine what the evolution is? You get to define it?

        That's the same thing the church tries to do. Congratulations on becoming what you hate.

        November 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
        • Matthew Grant

          I am pretty sure he was simply stating that we as humans needs to move past such out-dated notions and was not trying to define what the theory of evolution is. Your statement does not make any sense.

          November 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Observer

      Maunalani,

      Women have had voting rights less time than without. What happened to the tradition?

      November 2, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Jez

      Yea, Thanksgiving. A little dinner before wiping out the American Indians. How quaint.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Matthew Grant

      Says who you? Do you have support to this? Everything I read suggest that our foundering fathers wanted the government and church to be separated.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  19. krehator

    As long as the prayer is not mandatory, I don't see a problem.

    I'm not a Christian and I have never had a problem with people praying. I just stand there and let them do their thing. They let me do my thing.

    The people making a stink about it are the type of people who ALWAYS make a big stink about everything. Many of them are closet religion haters who disguise their hate as a fight for equal rights or some other horsesh17. That's the truth. If you get your feelings hurt, then too fu#$ing bad.

    November 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • holam

      Thank you for your reply. I have always said this, what does it hurt them?? Even if they think it is a fairy tale, (in the words of Hillary Clinton) what difference does it make??

      November 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
      • Matthew Grant

        The difference is that those who believe in "fairy tales" do not separate their personal views from the policy they create. Thus, their believe in "fairy tales" affects everyone who lives in society

        November 2, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  20. karl from az

    Atheists already 'have their day': April 1!!!!

    November 2, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      considering the vatican wealth along with other religious leaders wealth.. sounds like christians are the fooled.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Observer

      Christians have their biggest day of the year on December 25th when Santa Claus comes.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • krehator

      These statements clearly indicate none of you are about "rights". You just hate the other side, and you are looking for reasons to pick a fight. Too much taxpayer money is getting wasted on you people and your sensitivities.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Matthew Grant

      Another empty meaningless comment coming from a mind that can not offer any logical argument, thus have to resort to mockery

      November 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • holam

      whoop de do.

      November 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Trent

      You're only fooling yourself, son.

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

      I'm an atheist, but I have to admit that was witty. However, like Observer, I'd say the day so many Christians lie to kids about a fat man with a white beard bring gifts is a little more foolish. I'm all for foolish holidays, though. They're fun.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • holam

      April fools day lol

      November 2, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43
Advertisement
About this blog

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