American Atheists’ Amanda Knief Discusses Greece Case on CNN

Amanda Knief of American Atheists appeared on CNN this morning to discuss the upcoming Supreme Court case of Town of Greece v. Galloway:

Knief was the sane side of the debate, going against Pastor Robert Jeffress — a guy who said last year that if Christians didn’t vote “biblically,” they were no different than the people who brought on the Holocaust.

She had him tripping over himself by the end of it. Jeffress’ main points were that the majority of the town was Christian and he would never have prohibited people of other faiths from delivering those invocations. Of course, if the officials in Greece made it clear than anyone was welcome, there wouldn’t be a Supreme Court case in the first place. They didn’t do that. They sought out Christian pastors specifically. Jeffress has no defense to that.

He came off as a man afraid that the status quo might soon change, leaving him without all of his power.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    This idea that states can have a state religion, just not the federal government is so pervasive among the religious right, we need the Supreme Court to smack the whole idea down. I know it’s ridiculous and a waste of their time, but we really do need to have an official statement.

    • chris

      It would be nice, because as the second amendment was written this is not clear. However, the supreme court has interpreted it this way in previous judgments. Who knows what this supreme court would do. The do not ven think crosses are Xtian symbols.

      • Tyler Beal

        The second amendment concerns the right to keep and bear arms. Perhaps you are referring to the first?

        Moreover, the Constitution isn’t super explicit on these matters. It barely mentions religion at all. The first amendment prohibits the establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion.

        Also see article 6 paragraph 3: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

        Keep in mind, Congress an the Senate and many state legislatures and local governing councils have said opening prayers off and on since the founding of the country. Also you must keep in mind the context of the time: sectarian strife between different sects of Christianity. That’s really what the founding fathers were worried about, not being respectful of atheists, Muslims or other minorities as we know them today (who were almost unheard of in that time and place).

        Its also worth noting that a good proportion of the signers of the declaration of independence and the delegates at the constitutional convention were seminary graduates (preachers). This was because that was often one of the few places to obtain an advanced education back in those times. (Almost everyone at those 2 gatherings were preachers or lawyers).

        So while I certainly agree that prayers of this sort before a public gathering are inappropriate, this is hardly the slam dunk legal case atheists make it out to be. The justices often have to refer to the treaty of Tripoli or private writings of founding fathers to ‘interpret’ their intent.

  • ShoeUnited

    I love when people train wreck on their own privilege.

    I also love that the image makes them look like trading cards.

  • OhioAtheist

    Jeffress: “Nobody is suggesting that we establish a state church.”
    I call absolute bullshit on that statement.

  • Jean

    Still laughing at the pastor. xD

  • SeekerLancer

    My biggest eye-roll came from Jeffress’, “Are you saying the founding fathers were wrong?”

    I hate when either side of the argument uses “the founding fathers said…” as if they were some mystical and infallible deities themselves.

    We have amendments because of the fact that the founding fathers got a lot of things wrong.

    A bunch of old white men from the late 1700′s hardly represents the diversity and needs of the modern United States.

    • skyblue

      Yeah, I can’t stand that sort of founding-father-worship either. I bet he’s so entrenched in religious thinking “The Bible says…therefore…”, that he can’t accept looking at the founding fathers as a group of human beings who had a variety of ideas, some of which we might agree with, some of which have stood the test of time very well, and some of which are absolutely disgusting. And, after all, they didn’t even agree with each other on many things.

      As far as I’m concerned, any time someone makes a comment like Jeffress, the immediate response should be to ask if the founding fathers were wrong to own slaves.

    • JET

      And it was the founding fathers who provided for amendments and even enacted some. Almost like they thought circumstances might change.

      • SeekerLancer

        Yes, which is more to the point that even they didn’t want future generations to harp on their every word like it was biblical canon.

        • baal

          There are letters of the founders around and those make it clear that they knew then what politicians know today. You can often pass shorter language with general meaning when more specific language would fail to garner enough support to pass.

          • DKeane123

            Exactly my thought- the Constitution lacks many specifics for a reason.

    • LarryCook

      It’s not correct to portray them as “a bunch of old white men”. They are the reason that we have freedom of religion and are able to prevent towns like Greece NY from having Christian prayers at the start of every meeting. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Madison and even George Washington among many others were not generally church going men. I write “generally” because in their travels, they would sometimes attend services with their hosts where they were staying. They didn’t want religion shoved down their throats just like we don’t, they saw the harm of the Anglican Church in England and their strong actions in the face of other hypocrites of the time are the reason we have an excellent fighting chance of foiling the religious right from their dreams of rewriting history and making us a nation founded on so-called “Judeo-Christian principles”, whatever they are. Yes, their slave holding was hypocritical and abhorrent, but that’s not the subject here. Those “old white men” are the reason the word “God” isn’t written anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.

      • rx7ward

        “It’s not correct to portray them as ‘a bunch of old white men’.”

        Really? What were they, then?

      • SeekerLancer

        It wasn’t necessarily meant to be an insulting remark. I have the utmost respect for what they accomplished. I was making the point that America is a very different place now, and for all their wisdom they were fallible human beings like the rest of us, not objects of dogmatic worship.

    • revyloution

      When anyone tries to claim that they know what the founding fathers would say if they came forward in time, I have to call total BS. Mostly, because I know exactly what they would say. They would point up, and say ‘Holy Shit! Airplanes!!’

      • SeekerLancer

        I read an editorial in my local paper the other day about how Benjamin Franklin would have been in the Tea Party.

        It’s ridiculous. It’s like the Mormon church baptizing dead people.

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      “Are you saying the founding fathers were wrong?”

      Blink.. Blink… Cough. Slavery. Cough.

    • ShoeUnited

      We have amendments because of the fact that the founding fathers got a lot of things wrong.

      Hell that’s nothing. The Constitution they always beat on? The first sentence of the preamble is pretty obvious they fucked up with the articles of the confederation.

      We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,

      That could just as well have read in modern language

      We the People of the United States have fucked up royally and are calling a do-over…

  • CallMeTim

    This past week I was called for jury duty – one of forty or so folks that day in Raleigh, NC (Wake county). After the introductory instructions and videos, the jury clerk stated that she would be giving swearing everybody in, and that “anybody who wishes to be affirmed should come up and stand beside her to be taken care of after the swearing-in”… I was the only person of the 40 to do so. Talk about being singled out for my (lack of) beliefs….

    Everybody else was instructed to grab a bible (conveniently, there were two on very end table, and 4-6 on every work table), and sworn in. Then, I was affirmed. Pretty much the asme language, but my affirmation had no reference to god (not allah, buddha, yeti, teapot, etc).

    There were no torahs in the room, nor quorans… Nothing except bibles. That so-called holy man can take his comment that there is no effort to have a state religion and stick it up his fact-deficient buttocks.

    • CQMI

      So in other words, the court is spending taxpayer money on bibles.

    • Ron

      • Wallace Morrison

        love it

    • Wallace Morrison

      I definitely agree. The great thing is today, it’s just Bibles or religious rhetoric and not burning us at the stake like it use to be. As social evolution evolves, we will one day see a time where there is no Bibles on any table, nor being sworn in with a Bible. I wish i was born 200 years in the future to see it.

    • Kirby Percy

      majority religion in the us has been Christianity or catholic or any other form of religion from which they study the bible. If you wanted to swear in from the quoran they would allow that. if u wanted to swear in to the book of the spaghetti monster as an established religion they would allow it. It doesn’t mean that they should have a copy of every religious book for you. people are free to their beliefs. just because Christianity holds majority doesn’t mean its wrong to be the minority.

      • Viola DaGamba

        Let’s make this simple. How about if every table had a Koran and no other holy book? You get it now, don’t you?

    • Brent

      I used to live in NC. Where I was, I was told that if I didn’t put my hand on the bible in court that I’d get the worst treatment possible — this way by court personnel.

      • CallMeTim

        To the NC courts’ credits (well, at least those surrounding Raleigh), I’ve requested an affirmation rather than a swearing three times recently. All three times the individuals performing the rituals were very good about it… the process this last time was just a bit, well, disconcerting (almost like they were separating the “unclean”…)

  • Croquet_Player

    Ms. Knief did very well, I thought. These things are never as easy as they look, and Jeffress, for all his wrong-headedness, is still a pro. (Couldn’t you just feel the Christian privilege coming off him in waves?) However I do hate it when these things turn into shouting matches, and that’s entirely the fault of the moderator. Jeffress repeatedly tried to talk over Knief, and she had to get louder to defend herself. Well done Amanda Knief!

    • baal

      While the moderator didn’t rein in Jeffress as much as I’d have liked, he was at least fairly neutral.

  • Ashley Nasello

    Someone should tell Jeffress that repeating yourself over and over is not a good way to make your point.

    • http://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q Kevin_Of_Bangor

      That is how a lie becomes truth.

  • DougI

    CNN likes to have discussion from both sides of the issue. Knief represents intelligent people and Jeffress represents knuckle dragging morons.

  • baal

    I’m getting tired of christians being fucking rude and trying to shout over atheists. He was god-awful. His position on the first amendment is also entirely novel and not supported at law over the time we’ve been a country.

  • Malcolm Reynolds

    Anyone else feel the urge to smack him with a dead mackeral?

    • Crazy Russian

      Or a particularly large trout.

  • Oranje

    I love Knief. She does this quite well, and manages to still seem happy while digging into this muck. Bravo. I wouldn’t have any hair left having to battle stupid all day. Alright, that particular brand of stupid (we all have stupid in our lives, I bet).

  • Nunya

    It

  • William Dickey

    How is this still a debate? It’s obvious to any free thinking person whether they are religious or not. That the intention of the all great and powerful founding fathers was to SEPARATE government from religion. Christians can’t handle thiis idea, WHY? As an atheist I have no friggin problem with you praying or practising any ritual. Just leave me and mine the hell out of it. Why do they have to force their way in? Is it power? The atheists are acting like real americans while the christian right are trying to make power grabs. That’s all this is. Of course there should be no prayer at any government meeting, regardless if the founding fathers prayed or not. We are not a christian nation, ACCEPT IT. Or leave! Atheists aren’t saying you can’t believe in your god, or pray to it. JUST NOT IN OUR GOV’T. Damn. This ongoing debate is so annoying. So much more to really be focused on. But there is never a shortage of argumentative christians who are willing to strong arm their religion into a national one. Give it up!

  • Kirby Percy

    I don’t really agree with either side as far as this specific debate. It is true that Christianity is used for a bases in most places because its majority or at least has been for a long time and Amanda’s way of doing things is just leading to more oops am i going to offend someone if she was defending equality she would agree with a public invitation to all religious prayer weather she atheist or not. You cant say or do anything that may upset or offend someone in this country or its attack on liberty of some sort that’s a huge problem with our country at the moment. I could establish a made up belief and say the word the offends me and before u know it saying the would be unethical and looked down on haha. That just shows you how funny our society works right now.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      People in a public space can pray. Government officials, while representing the government, cannot lead prayers or force others to participate in them or pay for someone to say prayers or even give time for mandatory prayers, because government cannot establish a religion or religion over nonreligion.

      The problem is that this is a city council meeting, which is a government meeting. Public coercive prayer has no place in any governmental function because it marginalizes and silences people who are not of that religion. Everyone should be welcome and feel like their personal religious beliefs don’t matter for the hearing they will receive; prayer makes it clear that personal religious beliefs do matter, and that some people are treated better than others based on nothing more than personal beliefs.

  • Viola DaGamba

    “The United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”, UNANIMOUSLY adopted by the US Senate in 1797. Get your facts straight.


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