Atheist approved to give secular invocation at town meetings in Greece, NY

(Photo: abcdz2000)

Atheist Community member Dan Courtney's request to give the invocation at a Greece, New York town meeting was approved this week.

The Supreme Court ruled last month that prayers, including secular invocations, are allowed in town meetings.

Courtney will speak on July 15.

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.

Courtney said that his speech will be about inclusion.

"For too long the invocations at these meetings were invitation only affairs, as if the public space was a private club," he wrote on Facebook. "The result was over a decade of solely Christian prayer."

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."