Atheists deliver secular 'prayers' in response to Supreme Court decision

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An atheist plans to respond to last month's Supreme Court decision that allowed prayer in town meetings by offering a secular invocation in Greece, New York.

The small town outside of Rochester was the center of the federal decision that found invocations in public meetings to be constitutional. The Court ruled that the prayers are often ceremonial, and not used to convert meeting attendees.

In response to the decision, atheist groups in Pennsylvania and Illinois have offered secular "prayers" in town meetings. One atheist activist said he hopes other nontheistic persons will do the same.

"Given the Supreme Court's ruling, we have to make sure local governments are allowing anyone who wants to deliver an invocation to give one," Hemant Mehta told the Religion News Service (RNS).

"I wish the invocations were eliminated altogether, but until that happens, might as well add our names to the list."

Atheist Community member Dan Courtney plans to add his name to the list in Greece on July 15.

"I am going to ask the council to understand the principle that this country was founded on," Courtney told the RNS. "That the government was founded by the people and it needs to represent all the people regardless of their religious beliefs."

Some municipalities in Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia are enacting measures to ensure that only Christian prayers are allowed in their public meetings.

Meanwhile, atheist organizations have posted invocations on their websites for visitors to use as a template. Secularist Ted Utchen provided an example of a nontheistic invocation during a Wheaton, Illinois city council meeting.

"Let us rise each morning, and strive each day, to do only that which brings happiness and joy to others, and avoid doing things that cause others hurt and pain," he said.

"And let us, above all, love one another, not to obtain rewards for ourselves now or hereafter or to avoid punishment, but rather always to bring each other contentment and peace. So be it."

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