Some people upset over changes to Greece Town prayer guidelines

Updated: 08/26/2014 5:48 PM
Created: 08/26/2014 4:34 PM WHEC.com

The battle over prayers at Greece town meetings made its way to the Supreme Court but just months after the prayers were allowed by justices, restrictions about who can say the prayers has some atheists upset.

They are calling it a slap in the face. The new guidelines have non-believers up in arms. They tell News10NBC it’s because there was an understanding in place that everyone could have a chance to open meetings. Now, atheists feel they're back to being excluded.

“I feel deceived.” Atheist Dan Courtney says he won't be able to give the opening prayer or speech in Town Hall meetings like he did back in July. “I think we've all been lied to. They said they would be inclusive and they're not being inclusive.” They -- meaning the Town of Greece.

The town just revamped its policy on who can give invocations. The new guidelines say those who sign up to speak must represent a non-profit located in Greece, one where people meet to share religious perspectives.

This comes a few months after the Supreme Court upheld the Town's right to do so as long as non-believers are still welcome to open the meetings. Courtney said, “They're clearly backtracking on what they offer the Supreme Court and I think it's completely disingenuous.”

The town attorney wouldn't sit down with us but he gave us a statement saying, “The administration has received a large number of requests to offer invocations from individuals outside the Town of Greece and outside the State of New York. It is our desire to focus our efforts on serving the residents of the Town of Greece and, with this policy in place, we are hopeful that we can return to the business of the Town."

Meanwhile, Courtney says he'll continue to fight to be treated equally.

We asked the town attorney if people involved in local atheist groups would qualify to do the invocation. He told us he wasn't discussing hypothetical situations.

The town says it will decide who gets to speak on a case by case basis.

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