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Atheist opens Greece Town Board meeting

Updated: 07/15/2014 11:10 PM
Created: 07/15/2014 3:18 AM WHEC.com
By: Lynette Adams

A local town is back in the national spotlight. An atheist delivered the opening remarks at a Greece Town Board meeting. It is the first time a non-Christian has given the invocation since the milestone ruling from the Supreme Court just two months ago.

Back in May, the high court ruled in favor of the town of Greece, allowing prayer to start the town meetings. 

Typically, the Greece Town Board meetings begin with the roll call, the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer. On Tuesday, an atheist made history, opening the meeting with words from the country’s founding fathers.

Dan Courtney, Hilton atheist, said, “On July 4, 1776, the 56 men, who pledged their lives to the document that changed the course of history, agreed to the central tenet that, 'Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.'"

Dan Courtney, of Hilton, told the board he was speaking on behalf of the one in five Americans who have no religion. Courtney and several others came to the board meeting to make this point two months after the Supreme Court ruled that the town’s practice of opening the meeting with prayer is constitutional.

Outside the meeting, Courtney and dozens of supporters held a news conference. Among them, the man who represented two women who sued Greece to end prayer at the town board meetings, saying they discriminate against non-Christians. Linda Stephens says this is the next best thing.

Linda Stephens, who filed the lawsuit, said, “The Supreme Court says you must not discriminate against non-Christians or minority religions. So I’m hoping people follow the lead of Dan Courtney and give invocations.”

One man, who only wanted to be known as Rob, stood quietly in the back of the news conference with a sign that read, “Jesus Saves.” He says prayer is what has made America great.

Rob, supports prayer, said, “I believe it's because we have stood and acknowledged before him our inability and our ineptness to rightly rule ourselves justly without his help. It is simple as that.”

Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich says Greece is predominately Christian, but it has offered non-Christians the opportunity to give the opening prayer, even before the Supreme Court’s decision. That opportunity still exists.





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