Quoting the words of the Declaration of Independence and drawing on the words of philosopher Immanuel Kant, Dan Courtney made history on July 15, while delivering his invocation before the Greece, New York Town Board. This was the first ever atheist invocation to have been delivered at a town board meeting.
Courtney, who previously served as the president of Free Thinkers of Upstate New York, delivered the invocation after the United States Supreme Court ruled in May that Greece’s tradition of permitting sectarian prayer was acceptable, as long as the town did not discriminate between one religion and another.
While quoting the Declaration, Courtney asked officials on the dais to, “heed the counsel of the governed, seek the wisdom of all citizens and honor the enlightened wisdom and profound courage” of the founders of American government.
Meanwhile, on the lawn outside Town Hall, atheists, freethinkers, non-believers and supportive religious individuals assembled to condemn the Supreme Court’s decision and insist that they will hold the court and government responsible for any discrimination that follows unless, of course, the decision is reversed.
“There is prejudice based on the misguided belief that belief in God is the only path to morality. And we need to overcome that prejudice,” said Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, while pointing out that one in five Americans identifies as non-religious.
David Niose of the American Humanist Association also said that his organization plans to make sure secular Americans have a seat at the table by stressing on their right to deliver invocations before the commencement of meetings, a tradition practiced by all local governments.
“We will hold local governments and the Supreme Court to their word. We will ensure all Americans can appear before their government, not as members of a particular religion, but as citizens,” said Greg Lipper, attorney with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the organization that represented Greece residents Linda Stephens and Susan Galloway in the lawsuit seeking to force change to the town's prayer practice.
Courtney’s invocation received attention from several quarters with more than 100 people seating themselves inside the Eastman Room at Town Hall to hear him speak and at least 14 cameras stationed from different media houses. Many people in the audience held placards and sported tees showing support for secular values as Courtney continued to speak.
“We are not going to be invisible anymore. We will stand at podiums, we will deliver invocations and we will be heard,” said Courtney of non-believers, humanists, atheists and freethinkers.
Photo Credits: Times of Israel