Atheists and secularists swiftly responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that prayers at a New York town’s local council meetings do not violate the U.S. Constitution, announcing a nationwide resource program to equip atheists and humanists to deliver secular invocations at government meetings.
The American Humanist Association, a secular activist group, seized upon the decision by focusing in on a portion of the ruling that calls for local governments to be fair to theological views within their jurisdictions.
Rather than remain silent while Christians and other people of faith pray at government meetings, the secular group is encouraging nonbelievers to also exercise their right to offer public invocations.
So, the Humanist Society, a supplemental arm of the American Humanist Association, launched a website that offers atheists information on secular invocations, including a definition of what these non-theistic prayers consist of, examples of these invocations and an interactive U.S. map showing where individuals who are qualified to deliver them reside.
“In a way, the concept of a secular invocation is quite simple: It is essentially a short speech that calls upon the audience’s shared human values for assistance and authority in their public discourse,” explains a description on the American Humanist Association website.
It continues, “Unlike a traditional invocation, a secular invocation does not call upon a supernatural entity as a guide. It redirects our attention away from those supernatural entities towards those common human values that we do in fact share for guidance.”
The American Humanist Association is also offering a program to approve those who wish to begin delivering secular invocations.
“Non-religious people are often asked to contribute to a ceremonial event, but some struggle to find an alternative to religious wording,” Roy Speckhardt, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement. “We want to make it easier for anyone who wants to give a secular invocation so that legislative meetings can be nondiscriminatory.”
The humanist group has maintained that it wanted the Supreme Court to rule against public prayer, but since the end result of the long legal battle favors government invocations, the American Humanist Association is, instead, focusing on the decision’s call for inclusion in prayer policies.
If a town council allows for Christian invocations, then the group argues that secular prayers must also be permitted.
The American Humanist Association defines humanism as “a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”
Read more about the Greece vs. Galloway prayer ruling here.
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