Saturday, August 07, 2010

Jesus OK: Fed. Judge Rules Against Atheists

A federal judge in New York has rejected a demand from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State that a town board be ordered to change its invocation procedures so that the statements from volunteers on a rotating basis would be more "ecumenical" and "inclusive."

-- From "Greece town meeting prayers legal, judge says" by Meaghan M. McDermott, Staff writer, Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY) 8/7/10

Prayers in Jesus’ name before Greece Town Board meetings do not violate the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge has ruled.

In February 2008, two Greece residents filed suit accusing the town of flouting the First Amendment by opening public sessions with explicitly Christian prayers.

On the side of plaintiffs Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens were church-state watchdogs Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Arguing for the town were Christian religious freedom fighters Alliance Defense Fund.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Siragusa ruled in favor of the town and dismissed the suit.

“The Town did not begin having prayer at meetings in order to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief,” Siragusa wrote. “…The Town’s prayer policy, to the extent that one exists, is to invite clergy from all denominations within the Town, without any guidance or restriction on the content of prayers. The Town will also permit anyone who volunteers to give an invocation, including atheists and members of non-Judeo-Christian religions such as Wicca, and has never denied a request by anyone to deliver a prayer.”

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From "Judge rejects demand to censor Christian prayer" by Bob Unruh © 2010 WorldNetDaily 8/7/10

Two plaintiffs represented by the Americans United organization had wanted a court order that the town instruct those who deliver prayers to be "inclusive and ecumenical."

"The court finds that the policy requested by plaintiffs would … impose a state-created orthodoxy," the judge said. "The court has also considered the identities of the prayer-givers and the process that the town employed in inviting clergy to deliver prayers, and finds that these factors did not have the purpose or effect of proselytizing or advancing any one, or disparaging any other, faith or belief, within the meaning of the Establishment Clause."

"Congress continues to permit sectarian invocations, as it has since the practice's inception," the opinion explained. "On this point the court takes judicial notice of just two recent prayers given at the beginning of sessions of the United States House of Representatives. On April 15, 2010, the Rev. Clyde Mighells, of Lighthouse Reformed Church, gave the opening prayer in the House, which ended with the words, 'It is in the blessed name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that we lay these requests at Your feet. Amen.'"

It was a rare victory for prayer over the general rulings in recent years that often have restricted, limited or censored prayers that are offered at the openings of various government meetings, such as town and county boards and commissions.

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