Atheist opens NY meeting; top court OK'd prayers - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Atheist opens NY meeting; top court OK'd prayers

Posted: Updated:
  • NationalMore>>

  • Police hunt for 2 who carjacked SUV, killed 3 kids

    Police hunt for 2 who carjacked SUV, killed 3 kids

    Saturday, July 26 2014 2:02 AM EDT2014-07-26 06:02:47 GMT
    Police are searching for two men who carjacked an SUV and plowed into a group of children and adults selling fruit at a Philadelphia street corner, killing three kids and seriously injuring two women.More >>
    Police were searching for two men who carjacked an SUV and plowed into a group of children and adults selling fruit to raise money for their church, killing three kids and critically injuring their mother and the...More >>
  • Ohio State under shadow again, this time with band

    Ohio State under shadow again, this time with band

    Saturday, July 26 2014 12:45 AM EDT2014-07-26 04:45:52 GMT
    The Ohio State marching band is moving forward without its director; a day after he was fired they're performing with the Columbus Symphony in what's often considered the band's unofficial season kickoff.More >>
    Having forced out a beloved football coach and watched its president retire after a series of verbal gaffes, Ohio State University again finds itself grabbing headlines with the firing of a celebrated marching band...More >>
  • Baby dies after being left in hot car in Kansas

    Baby dies after being left in hot car in Kansas

    Friday, July 25 2014 11:56 PM EDT2014-07-26 03:56:40 GMT
    Police have arrested the foster parent of a 10-month-old girl who died after being left inside a hot car in Wichita, Kansas.More >>
    A 10-month-old Kansas girl died after being strapped for more than two hours inside a sweltering car, and police arrested a foster parent who said he'd forgotten about her until something on TV jogged his memory, an...More >>
By Associated Press

GREECE, N.Y. (AP) - An atheist cited the freedoms promoted by the Founding Fathers as he delivered the opening invocation Tuesday at a town meeting in a community whose leaders won a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right to start their gatherings with a prayer.

"On July 4, 1776, the 56 men, who pledged their lives to the document that changed the course of history, agreed to the central tenet that, 'Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,'" Dan Courtney said at the monthly meeting of the Greece town board.

A critic of the 5-4 Supreme Court decision, the 52-year-old mechanical engineer went on to say, "this central premise still echoes, however faintly, from the town hall to the white-columned halls of Washington" and is "today, more than ever, under assault."

Courtney applied soon after the ruling in May for an opportunity to deliver the "non-theist" message and the town agreed on Tuesday, the earliest open date.

The court's conservative majority declared the prayers in line with national traditions and said the content is not significant as long as the prayers don't denigrate non-Christians or try to win converts. The town argued persons of any faith were welcome to give the invocation.

Town supervisor William Reilich said Monday a variety of views have been represented during invocations, citing the instance of a pagan Wiccan for one.

"It's not unusual that we have diversity," he said. "It's whoever comes up from the community."

After the session, Courtney said, "I appreciate that they gave me this opportunity."

A member of Atheist Community of Rochester, he said he is an acquaintance of Linda Stephens, also an atheist, who along with Susan Galloway was a plaintiff in the case challenging the town meeting prayer. They said the Christian prayers made them uncomfortable. Every meeting from 1999 through 2007 had been opened with a Christian-oriented invocation.

A day after the court decision, Stephens and Galloway, who is Jewish, said they would continue to push the board to be more inclusive and hoped to see atheists among those leading the "Moment of Prayer" that follows the Pledge of Allegiance.

Courtney, who was raised Christian but became an atheist as a young man, told The Associated Press the court's decision was "ill-advised" at a time of divisiveness in the U.S.

"I think it's a foolish decision," he said.

He concluded his invocation by urging the town board "to seek the wisdom of all citizens, and to honor the enlightened wisdom and the profound courage of those 56 brave men."

Courtney explained later that, "The point of that is we need to look at the people ... all of the people, believers and non-believers alike."

Courtney had the backing of the Center for Inquiry, whose president and CEO and Ronald A. Lindsay spoke at a news conference after the session. The center describes is mission as fostering "a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry and humanist values."

A sole protester carrying a "Jesus Saves" placard countered a group of Courtney's supporters outside town hall.

"I think it was an important event and it went off without a hitch," Courtney said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Powered by WorldNow