Wednesday, May 07, 2014

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Supreme Court Rules Wrong Way In Public Prayer Case

The Town of Greece, New York has won its U.S. Supreme Court case about the right to have public prayers ("invocations") before meetings of the city council. The High Court ruled 5-4 (straight conservative-liberal split) in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway this week.

SCOTUSblog reports:
Narrowly defining what is not allowed in such prayers, the Court said they may not be used to praise the virtues of one faith and may not cast other faiths or other believers in a sharply negative light.  Courts have no role in judging whether individual prayers satisfy that test, but can only examine a “pattern of prayer” to see whether it crossed the forbidden constitutional line and became a form of “coercion.” 
The majority clearly moved the “coercion” test to the forefront of analyzing when government and religion are too closely intertwined.  The alternative test — whether government action “endorsed” a particular faith — was nearly cast aside as taking too little account of the role of religion in America’s history and civic traditions. 
The four dissenters complained that the new ruling will strike a heavy blow against the nation’s tradition of religious pluralism, and will lead to prayers that will actively promote a single faith’s religious values.  Justice Elena Kagan wrote the main dissent, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor.  Justice Breyer also wrote a dissenting opinion speaking only for himself; that opinion focused more narrowly on the facts in this specific case.
Godless heathens like myself were outraged by the decision, but the godless have a plan to respond:
So, the Humanist Society, a supplemental arm of the American Humanist Association, launched a website that offers atheists information on secular invocations, including a definition of what these non-theistic prayers consist of, examples of these invocations and an interactive U.S. map showing where individuals who are qualified to deliver them reside. 
“In a way, the concept of a secular invocation is quite simple: It is essentially a short speech that calls upon the audience’s shared human values for assistance and authority in their public discourse,” explains a description on the American Humanist Association website. 
It continues, “Unlike a traditional invocation, a secular invocation does not call upon a supernatural entity as a guide. It redirects our attention away from those supernatural entities towards those common human values that we do in fact share for guidance.”
The American Humanist Association is also offering a program to approve those who wish to begin delivering secular invocations. 
“Non-religious people are often asked to contribute to a ceremonial event, but some struggle to find an alternative to religious wording,” Roy Speckhardt, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement. “We want to make it easier for anyone who wants to give a secular invocation so that legislative meetings can be nondiscriminatory.”
Sounds good to me!

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