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Dan Courtney, the past president of an organization called Free Thinkers of Upstate New York, delivered what is reportedly the first atheist invocation to open a Town Board meeting in Greece, New York this week. The town of Greece was at the center of a recent Supreme Court ruling:
The town’s practice of opening its town board meetings with a prayer offered by members of the clergy does not violate the Establishment Clause when the practice is consistent with the tradition long followed by Congress and state legislatures, the town does not discriminate against minority faiths in determining who may offer a prayer, and the prayer does not coerce participation with non-adherents.
As the Supreme Court ruling decreed that sectarian prayer prior to a civic meeting is constitutional as long as the town discriminate, Courtney was allowed to give a speech in which he quoted Immanuel Kant and warned of the government turning a deaf ear to the concerns of the people.
What’s the Big Idea?
You can watch Courtney’s invocation here.
You’ll note that Courtney mentioned the honor of speaking on behalf of a large segment of the population. His speech was supported by hundreds of atheists and non-religious who sat in on the invocation and demonstrated outside the Town Hall after Courtney had finished. While many question the ramifications of the Greece v. Galloway decision, an atheist invocation appears to be a fair compromise given the new letter of the law.
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