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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. Christina

    Separation of Church and state. The end.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      thanks to our founding fathers, secular society is placed above all religions. Thankfully we keep christians and muslims tamed or the USA would be like the middle east, except with christians.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  2. Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

    when I think of jesus, charlie manson comes to mind. They seem so similar.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Guest

      I agree!

      November 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  3. Joe

    so he is demanding that her perspective be given dominance? That no prayer be offered? Too bad being an atheist requires a greater leap of faith than accepting the possibility of the existence of god.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      faith? how childish.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Bob

      No, she's demanding that people respect the division between church and state.

      If you want to bring religion into the halls of government, bring all religions or bring none.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Skarphace

      All "leaps of faith" are a matter of perspective. To an athiest it is a much larger leap of faith to believe in something supernatural than to believe in science.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It's not relly a leap of faith. It's more like realizing that most people are barmy because of their belief in invisible beings with supernatural powers (that never seem to actually be manifested in any way).

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

      Sorry, being an atheist requires a greater leap of faith then believing a magical being created everything? Interesting point of view.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
      • zampaz

        For some being an atheist requires overcoming indoctrination that goes to the core of an individuals programming by parents and society. Much more difficult than a leap of faith is facing the lies you were told by well meaning parents as a child.
        Giving up childhood invisible friends is beyond the ability of most adults.

        November 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Steel On Target

      You should consult a dictionary. Clearly you have no idea of the definition of atheist.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Brian

      Also, which god? Odin? Prometheus? Ptah? Izanagi? Pangu? Brahma?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • skytag

      More proof religion makes people stupid. Being an atheist requires no more faith than not believing in Santa Claus, vampires, or leprechauns.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  4. Opposing View

    Closing Your Eyes Won't Make a Difference…

    You can meet death with your eyes open, or you can meet death with your eyes closed, but it won't make a difference, you will still meet death. Only a fool would assume that having your eyes closed is going to make any difference. Yet, that is precisely what most atheists believe. They feel that by convincing themselves that hell doesn't exist, that it will someone prevent them from ever going to hell. They are deceived. They will still go to hell whether they believe in hell or not.

    For a group that purports to follow logic, they sure do a lot of illogical stuff…

    November 2, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Nothing convinces me that hell does exist.

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

      "convincing themselves that hell doesn't exist"

      That is where your argument breaks down. Athiests do not believe in hell and have convinced themselves that hell does not exist. If they believed that hell existed, they wouldn't be athiests in the first place. You could just as easily say that Christians are actually athiests that have convinced themselves that hell does exist. See how that argument makes no sense? The fallacy of that statement makes your entire argument fall flat.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Ganesh

      Opposing View,

      Ok, so you close your eyes to the 'fact' that you (especially with your karma) might come back after death as a co.ckroach or a squawking bluejay.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • J-Pap

      More hogwash from those who have faith but no logic.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Marla

      I don't pretend to know the eternal judgement of anyone, atheists included. Atheists don't believe in the god that has been presented to them; not God!

      November 2, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Marla

      I'm a theist and I'm glad you are not my judge!

      November 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • JJ

      What a silly argument. It breaks down, because it presumes there could only be 2 options. Either a Hell exists, and all people who are atheists go there. Or it does not exist and then nothing happens after death to anyone. Why couldn't be an infinite number of other options. What if there is a God and he just sends all Catholics to hell? What if there is a God and he sends people who eat peanut butter to hell? The fact of the matter is that if there is a God and a Hell and he sends people there that don't follow his "rules." How do you know what those specific rules are? If the Bible were so clear, why can't Christians of the same denomination, or even parish agree which rules would result in you going to Hell? If I walk in to any church anywhere with a list of like 20 rules and asked people how God felt about each one and whether breaking any of them was Hell worthy, I would get a ton of different answer permutations.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
      • Opposing View

        JJ… You are deceived. Truth never breaks down. It is either the truth, or it's a lie. There is no third option.

        LIttle do you know, you were already bound for hell from the moment you were born (it has nothing to do with you personally, but with the fact that Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. When they sinned, all of mankind fell into sin). Jesus came that you might have life and not go to hell. You can either accept his help and offer of salvation, or you can continue on to hell. The choice is yours. There is no third option…

        November 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
        • JSJ

          You have demonstrated very clearly the disease of the religious mind. I'm sorry, but I can see with my own eyes that the Universe is gray. It is not black and white.

          November 2, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
        • G to the T

          OK so you believe in a literal garden of eden, adam and eve? Thanks for saving me having to respond to you in the future then.

          Tell you what – when all "christians" can come together and ALL agree on a SINGLE theology, I might be willing to listen to what you have to say. Otherwise, it's just one person's opinion and your's has been comprimised.

          November 5, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  5. Agnostic

    atheists are just mad they lost something dear to them in life once before. They blame God because of their lose. So much hate.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • logan5

      I have to disagree. I was born into Christianity and began doubting as early as 19 yrs of age. At that age, I would have been far too young to really know the pain of life.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • On the other. hand...

      What the hell are you talking about?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Skarphace

      You cannot "blame God" for anything and be an athiest. Your argument shows that you are unclear on the concept of athiesm.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Rationalist

      Atheists do not believe in gods. It is not possible to blame something that one doesn't believe exists. This concept proves extremely difficult for theists to understand, thanks to years of brainwashing.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
      • Opposing View

        Rationalist… Which only illustrates how ignorant atheists are. There are many gods. Even worse, atheists say they don't believe in "gods" – yet they are one. How ignorant can you get?

        Anything and anyone you hold up as being higher and more important to you than the true and living God, then that is your god. For atheists, that god is themselves. And you will be judged accordingly…

        Exodus 20-2-3 – I am the Lord they God, and thou shall have no other gods before me…

        November 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
        • Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

          Opposing View, that passage you cite in no way demonstrates or proves the existence of multiple deities ("gods" as you call them) as you assert. It does demonstrate that people believe in the existence of such beings. Reason much?

          November 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • J-Pap

      So you believe in reincarnation? That has nothing to do with Christianity. For those who believe in Christianity, when they die they go to heaven or hell for eternity.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • doobzz

      Laughable.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  6. MilitaryAF

    Prayer of any kind doesn't belong in government meetings at any level. I've been to several city council and other meetings here in UT, where the majority involved are mormons. They perform their version of prayer at the beginning of every meeting. Being Catholic, it feels as though they are pre-charging their stance against anyone who is not mormon by stirring up the cult, and won't listen to our position on matters. This is happening right now over a plan to build yet another mormon church building across the street from my house (with 3 others within 4 blocks), in previously reserved natural 'open space'. Needless to say, the 'church' is in the process of steam-rolling over everyone that doesn't want this thing built.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  7. Apple Bush

    If god wants us to love him so he doesn't have to fry us for eternity, why are we born atheists rather than spiritualists?

    I think god enjoys the smell of hot burning flesh and enjoys his jerky.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • JJ

      Yes. Baby Jesus and his daddy love the smell of roasting human flesh and the screams wafting up from hell. Why else would such a monster invent such a scheme to trip up and laugh at those who fail to get it right?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Chef

      Apple Bush,
      "I think god enjoys the smell of hot burning flesh and enjoys his jerky."

      Well, of course he does. Why do you think that there is so much emphasis on keeping sheep and fishing for men?! Yum!

      November 2, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Marla

      Why are we born illiterate and without the ability to speak any language? Based on your logic we should still be like monkeys!

      November 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
      • J-Pap

        And imagine how far we'd have not come if we all still believed in religion and not science.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Science? I will tell you how far we went with science. In less than 100 years we polluted this planet to a point of no return. We are fooling around in labs with deadly viruses and we also creates other type of viruses that are killing people but it's hidden from the public that these new viruses are actually coming out of those labs. We are destroying this planet in the name of science. Want's some more?

          November 2, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Scientists have created the nuclear bomb, and it was used to kill a lot of people. It's all in the name of science. Whats some more?

          November 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
        • Marla

          The fathers of the scientific revolution (Newton, Galileo, Copernicus) believed in an ordered universe that was knowable because they first believed in an intelligent God.

          November 2, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Opposing View

      No one is born an atheist. If you believe that then you've been deceived. People "choose" to become an atheist and they do so of their own free will. For example, someone told you that God doesn't exist (and without a shed of evidence to back it up either, mind you) – and you believed it . No one forced you to believe that. You could have rejected it (especially without any proof to back it up). But you didn't. Instead, you accepted it and you believed it of your own free will (because that was what you wanted to believe). Therefore, you alone are to blame for what you believe. So if you end up in hell as a consequence, it will also be of your own free will…

      November 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
      • doobzz

        What a load of bullshit.

        November 3, 2013 at 12:38 am |
  8. Greyhound37

    Glad to see the court is actually hearing the case. Too many of these cases are turned away.
    It will be interesting to see if they uphold law in this case.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  9. donald

    atheist= forgive them for they no not what they do.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Perhaps, but many of us do know basic word usage.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Ira Radnick

      Nothing to forgive, because we know exactly what we are doing. I, for one, refuse to allow fables and tales of mystery guide me when I have a wonderful brain with which I can think for myself as opposed to allowing myself to be led around by a bunch of self-serving hypocrites.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • JFC

      And you do!! LOL Did you speak to god today?!

      November 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Steve

      Forgive Donald for he made it not out of the third grade. The word you want is "know" as in to understand or comprehend as opposed to "no" which is a word of negation.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  10. Marla

    Printing "In God we trust" is persecution? Saying "God bless America" is persecution? Sounds awful. Talk about persecution, how about Mao and Stalin. These two atheists killed more people than all wars combined throughout history..

    November 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Maddy

      This tired stuff again? They didn't do it IN THE NAME OF ATHEISM. They did it in the name of totalitarianism. Do you know the difference?

      Putting "in God We Trust" should have NEVER been put on our money in the first place; it was added in 1956 during the Red Scare. We are a SECULAR country. Do you understand that?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        And at a time when publicly saying anything like "Excuse me, but does anyone have any proof for this god dude?" would have been extremely "career limiting."

        November 2, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • Marla

        People act on their beliefs. Our beliefs shape who we are. Dostoevsky famously said, "If there is no God, then everything is permissible." One of Communism's goals was to eradicate religion and "dispel" the myth of God in their schools. So yes, they acted in the name of atheism.

        November 2, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • al

      those butt hurting atheist would much rather have "arbeit macht frei" that in god we trust. printed in our money

      November 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
      • JJ

        You Christians would rather have "Gott mit uns" on our money just like your Nazis had on their belt buckle.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • logan5

      Did Mao and Stalin order those killings in the name of atheism or were the killings the result of megalomania and the lust for power? You have a mind, please use it!!

      November 2, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Jdubba

      Let's get your facts straight, sister...religion, especially the concept of god and jesus, is responsible for more death, destruction, torture, war, and persecution than any other man made affliction. it's brainwashing, indoctrination, and the root of our stalled progression as a global race.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
      • logan5

        Absolutely right! If the Arab peoples had never invented Islam, the Middle Eastern states would be the dominant global powers right now rather than the socially perverted, backward cultures they are today.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
      • Opposing View

        Jdubba… Maybe you should try getting your facts straight yourself.

        Evil and Sin and Lucifer is entirely responsible for 100% of everything bad that has ever happened in the world. Were it not for sin and evil, all of mankind would still be in paradise, would still be in the Garden of Eden….

        Tell me this: How many souls has anything on earth – other than religion – ever saved in the history of the world? Answer: Zero

        November 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
        • OTOH

          Opposing View:
          "Tell me this: How many souls has anything on earth – other than religion – ever saved in the history of the world? Answer: Zero"

          How many 'souls' have been ***verified*** to have been 'saved' by religion in the history of the world? Answer: Zero

          November 2, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  11. tony

    The Belief Blog will be closed for two days next week, so we can clean the stained glass.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  12. Alicia

    It's too bad atheists have to go way out of their way to sensationalize everything they don't like about faith. This has been going on 1000's of years before they were even a thought, so, what gives anyone the right to bind others of their rights?. If I don't believe in what others do believe in, I sit silent and let it finally pass... that's called humility, something that some of us do not possess.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Morgan

      Practice your religion in your homes and your churches. None of us are telling you that you can't privately do so. But when you inject your religious beliefs into the public sphere of government ... then it's on. No statues, no prayers, no religious trappings of any kind have any place in a people's government.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
      • Opposing View

        If that is the case, then perhaps you should practice your "non-belief" at home and somewhere behind closed doors and not out in public. What gives you the right to impose your "non-belief" views on people in public then? If you have the right to impose your "non-belief ways" in public, then so also do believers have the right to impose their "belief ways" in public....

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

      Slavery was a tradition that's been going on for thousands of years. Those wacky slaves would disagree with you. Who are they to buck tradition?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • JK

      So if they instead opened their sessions with a prayer to Allah you'd be cool with that?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  13. Morgan

    Religion does not belong in the public arena. Prayers do not belong at civic meetings.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  14. richunix

    I do agree as an Athiest, we should not engage those who believe in myths. If they wish to pray to whatever diety they believe in, let them. It does not concern me nor does it affect what I do through out the day. Religion is a very human creation, being both good and bad, but never the less very human belief.

    I believe in one god less than you do, when you understand why you dimiss all other gods, then you will understand why I dimiss yours. Stephen Foster

    November 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  15. Paulteague

    Replace the word "Jesus" in every prayer with the word "Poseidon" – and you get a taste of what it's like for atheists when they hear this crap.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  16. Apple Bush

    Believers believe in their particular fantasies because of where they were born and what they were taught (brainwashed). Any other explanation is a lie.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Akrahn

      Strange than that many un-churched people come to faith in Jesus Christ as adults.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        I agree it is strange. But they would not unless someone was in their hear influencing them. It is not magic.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
      • JK

        Most of these unchurched people were exposed to Christianity as children, if not raised that way. They're just gravitating to the familiar.

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

        Statements like this can have no basis in fact. How did you determine that "many" people raised without faith turn to Jesus Christ as an adult? Did you conduct a survey? How many people?

        November 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  17. Haime52

    Seems a tempest a teapot. These ladies are standing up for, or rather against something they have no belief in. Ok! If they are not harmed, and I can hardly see in what way they have been what is the issue. They have not been subjected to brainwashing or indoctrination, only a short exercise of words. You cannot be offend unless you allow yourself to be. I have seen people who look for things to be offended about. It gives them a sense of power to be the offended party.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Jim Enderson

      Fine. If no one gets hurt, would be okay if someone started the meetings with a prayer to Almight SATAN, Lord of the Dark?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  18. spudnik56

    Religion of any ilk is for weak minded fools.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  19. drc

    Love reading these boards, you get the atheist loons who while I truly believe can 'believe' or not believe whatever they want, should just STFU...if they don't like religion X, Y or Z then don't listen. I'm not an ultra-religious person, although I am Catholic. If I was in a 'Govt building' and there was a menorah I would not be whining and crying....who cares. But we all know if you are Catholic the liberal loons are against you.

    As it clearly states in the article, had any liberal loon read it:
    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."

    So, the town offered other religions or others to speak, not just Christians....but we know that is not good enough for an atheist....they simply want to be the jerk+offs they are with most.

    Seems to me based on that paragraph alone, the town made ever attempt to appease the atheist but as we know, it is more about dismissing Christianity and not so much any other religion.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      The one who calls us loons loves reading our posts. Fascinating.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Maddy

      I think you should probably stop painting everyone with such a broad brush if you yourself do not want to be stereotyped. There's a whole lot more ammunition to be used against those who believe than those who don't.
      The point is, the tyranny of the majority should be more important than the oppression of the minority.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Craig

      Its about dismissing all of the religions. Why do you need a prayer at a legislative meeting anyway?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Galileo

      Either the town board meetings start off with equal opportunity for any and all religions and philosophies and 20 hours later the actual work can begin on taxpayer issues or the religious types can butt out of what is a tax-payer supported activity.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Jim Enderson

      What if a Satanist offered the prayer to Lord SATAN, PRince of darkness? Why deny him?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  20. snowman

    Atheists amuse me...if you don't want to pray...then don't pray...Just because someone else is praying, doesn't mean they're forcing it "down your throat"

    November 2, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • sam stone.

      it does not belong in the public arena

      November 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • 66rock

      That's fine but not in government. We don't mix the two, be it national or local.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • appalled

      That's not the point! Gov & religion should NOT mix. In fact, religion is going to be the downfall of the whole world. And, why are we using taxpayer dollars for chaplains etc in the military? Why do we pay someone to pray before Congress begins. There's no one up there!! Do you pray to Snow White? Not one shred of evidence of all those myths and that's exactly what they are: Myths!

      November 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Pythagoras

      What if before every meeting or before ever class you children attended… the forced everyone to chant a Buddhist mantra for a few minutes…& then someone told you, "Hay if you don't want to chant – just don't chant"???

      Would that be no problem for you?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
      • snowman

        Not at all...I also believe in diversity. The Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in public prayer. (Many of my family are Witnesses). When there was prayer at graduations, or weddings, they would simply not bow their heads and participate. Nobody can force you to pray.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
        • Mathew

          bull...plain and simple. either way nobody should have to share your view, religion does not belong anywhere in a public setting. you end up with a cherry picking of a demonstration. "since this group is mostly christian, we'll say a christian prayer". you are still isolating non christian people whether they be atheist or mulsim, etc

          November 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Were the graduations, weddings, etc. conducted as part of government business? Was it a requirement that the attendees attended in order to conduct business with the government? I think not, so pray away!

          November 2, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Mathew

      Do you realize how biased you sound? If it were the other way around and you had to be around a "there is no god" chant you'd be angry. Only a fool can't understand why religious sorts need to be done in private and left out of public scenarios. What if your kids went to a school with a muslim principle and he made the kids start referring to god as allah? what would you say then?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • JSJ

      You force it down our throats if you hold public office. A religious person cannot simply disconnect his bias when making public policy decisions. Religion will influence his opinions on everything. The religious mind is one that believes in absolute truth backed by the authority of some "god." Public policy should be based solely on reality. A religious person is incapable of separating his belief system from reality. They are one and the same. Being religious should automatically disqualify anyone from holding public office.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:13 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.