Here, in my lovely home state of Pennsylvania, the PA House of Representatives has been sued by some residents for not allowing a secular e.g. non-theist based invocation before the body. The suit, brought by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, American Atheists, and members of various local groups here in PA, is brought because the PA HR has refused to allow a secular invocation.
The US Supreme Court decided in 1983 that bodies like the PA HR can start their business with an invocation, so this is not to stop invocations. It is to stand up for equal representation, requiring such bodies to acknowledge that not only their pet religion be allowed to stand up in front of them and be counted. The PA Senate allowed a secular invocation, but the House is notoriously conservative and goes out of its way to advocate for Christian, and Christian only, legislation like requiring In God We Trust be in public schools, that the Bible be the official book, and other theocratic nonsense. That is not to say every House member is a wannabe theocrat but a large number of them are.
Now, the invocations that are proposed are to follow. My question to my theist readers is why this should not be allowed? Why would a house member (unsurprisingly a Republican and the Speaker) hide behind this?
“Nowhere [in the Supreme Court decision of Greece v. Galloway] did we see any language which would require legislative bodies to allow nonbelievers to address the opening of legislative bodies in lieu of an opening prayer by a regular chaplain. It is our opinion, that while the Court encouraged a diversity of prayer givers, we do not believe that government bodies are required to allowed non-adherents or nonbelievers the opportunity to serve as chaplains.”
And why do the leaders of the HR try to use security to force obedience to their religion:
“24. On one occasion, while plaintiff Fields was sitting in the visitors’ gallery,the Speaker of the House directed the visitors to stand, and plaintiff Fields did not. The Speaker then repeatedly asked plaintiff Fields to stand. When plaintiff Fields did not, the Speaker publicly asked a Legislative Security Officer to further pressure plaintiff Fields to stand for the prayer. The Security Officer then approached plaintiff Fields and several times asked him to stand. Plaintiff Fields continued to refuse to do so.” – complaint, see below
The Greece v. Galloway ruling (made in 2014 ) states that this nonsense doesn’t stand. Again, we see Christians trying to force their religion on others, and having a good chance of wasting taxpayer money in the process. Many Christians have done their best to ignore Greece v. Galloway and have shown that their promises to obey are simply lies.
The invocations proposed and given:
“Thank you for inviting me to speak today.
Our commonwealth was founded on the principles of tolerance, respect, and equality. As we gather, let us fully consider each citizen of this commonwealth as equals in the eyes of the law. May reason and rationality guide our decisions, and may those decisions be considered to be in the best interests of all of us.
We are a commonwealth of many different people working together. We are a commonwealth of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, agnostics, atheists and many, many others. We may disagree in many respects, but we can all agree here that our laws are the foundation of our civil society. To that end, I ask that those gathered here today remember that the reason that society works is the fair and judicious application of those laws discussed here.
To close, I would like to offer the words of Albert Einstein: “Nothing truly valuable can be achieved except by the unselfish cooperation of many individuals. Thank you.”
And here’s the one offered before the PA Senate:
“Good morning. Thank you for welcoming something different to your day. It is an honor to be given a voice in this governing body.
In recent months, religious beliefs have been at the forefront of national debate. We are fortunate to live in a country founded and formed to recognize the importance of the individual, where no one shall be made to hide nor justify his personal beliefs, and where no government shall impose a singular religion on its citizenry. Where there is misunderstanding, we may engage in conscientious and respectful dialogue to assuage fear.
I am humbled to represent a portion of your diverse constituency, and that may raise the question, do atheists pray? A prayer is meditative, seeking inner strength to face difficulty and challenge. A prayer is solicitous, seeking to bring a benefit or relief to one’s self, a loved one, or even to strangers. A prayer can be a direct appeal to a higher power.
So, let us pray that we may use our power to lead with compassion and understanding, that we remain tolerant of others regardless of differences in religious belief, gender, race, sexual, or political orientation, and that we treat one another as we wish to be treated. Let us pray for open minds and for the strength to overcome preconceived judgment. Let us learn daily and consider wisely. Let us be mindful of our one diverse human family with common values and needs. Let us work toward clean air, clear water, safe neighborhoods, strong schools, and a viable economy with sustained employment opportunity for all. Let us provide for well-trained and equipped firefighters, emergency responders, police, and military, and may we never forget their sacrifice. As we forge ahead toward the common good of community, may we all benefit from the enduring power of diversity.
It is up to theists to explain why these shouldn’t be allowed. Here’s an interesting argument why theists should support the invocations others. Why People of Faith Should Support Non-Theistic Invocations ( a word to theists, you may want to click on the name of the author of the article to see his background). I’m going to guess right now that my usual Christian commenters will avoid this post like the plague as usual.
(addendum) I don’t agree with using the terms “invocation” (assuming that there is a magical being to be invoked) or prayer, which is not meditation or anything else but trying again to make a magical entity do something.
And a new meme I made from a quote I stumbled upon. The original quote was in a speech that was more about the economy but it does apply well to anything where lies and myth are common.
5 thoughts on “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – beating back the theocrats again, Pennsylvania”
I hope the Satanists get involved.
…and may the greatness of the noodly appendaged one shine down upon ye, Arrrgh!
Isn’t something about separation of church and state in the constitution somewhere?
Isn’t there something about not flaunting your beliefs publicly in the bible somewhere?
Clearly these asshats do want a theocracy. Or clearly they do not understand the constitution or their idiotic magic books.
These people are politicians. They are beholding to an electorate. Judicial interference is the only way to nudge change. But, as a former Keystoner, I enjoyed reading it. Thanks.
so, where did you live in PA? I grew up in the middle of nowhere in western PA and now am in the capital.
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Northeastern PA. Born and raised in Wilkes-Barre.