Bets, anyone? The article is at The Eagle Forum Blog (“Leading the Pro-Family Movement Since 1972″), and was posted by Phyllis Schlafly. It commented on the apparent absurdity of an atheist prayer at a Huntsville, Alabama City Council meeting.
Since I had written on this before (then, though, it was Greece NY), I knew the arguments, so I commented:
Although prayer is of course most often used in the context of praying to a god or gods, the definition does include a plea or entreaty to anyone at all who might give aid–Shakespeare, of course, even used it in its original meaning, as a synonym of “ask”.
As such, it is perfectly appropriate for an atheist to give an opening prayer or invocation, asking (entreating, pleading, praying) that the citizens and councilors gathered there remember that they are there as part of civic action, as governance, not as a religious gathering, and that their actions (according to the constitution) must not trample the rights of the minority to heed the whim of the majority.
The supreme court has held that the establishment clause must not favor one religion over another, or religion over non-religion (see the “endorsement test”, as found in Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Lynch v Donnelly). The constitution is thus firmly behind American Atheists in this case; atheists are citizens as much as anyone else, may participate in civic duties as much as anyone else, and excluding them even from the opening prayer sends the message (echoed in your article here) that there is only one meaning of “prayer”, and it involves belief in a god or gods.
The atheists in this case are defending the constitution. The lawmakers in this case took an oath to protect and defend that constitution, but instead have instituted a religious test (in defiance of article VI, paragraph 3 of the constitution).
As for your last paragraph… You claim it is atheists who cannot stand to see Christians pray. We atheists see Christians pray all the time; the constitution says you are free to do so, so long as you are not acting as the representatives of the government while you do so. In truth (and in your description of the events here), it is Christians who cannot stand to see atheists pray, and who have excluded them from praying (to their fellow citizens and lawmakers, not to a god) unconstitutionally. I cannot imagine why–there are as many ways to pray as there are religions, and many more besides. The government cannot take sides, though–if one is included, all are allowed, and all must be invited, and welcome.
Hit post, and “Your comment will be visible after approval”.
Like I said… bets?
Edited to add–first… they published it! Yay! I lose the bet! Second… I honestly did not intend to not link to the post–I have fixed that now and added the link.