Video Footage from Greece City Council Meetings Shows Why Non-Christians Were Unwelcome There

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a case that could decide the fate of invocation prayers at city council meetings.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is arguing the case for the plaintiffs and they’ve put together a wonderful website offering video evidence of what they’re opposed to.

Like prayers being delivered at a meeting when children are present — how is that not a form of indoctrination?:

Pastor Tim Bush walks up to deliver an invocation prayer as children there for a separate reason sit in the front row

Or when a city council member leads an Oath of Office with religious content:

There’s so much video here. And it’s all evidence that the Greece City Council is not a welcome place for those of us who are not Christian. That’s not the proper role of government and the Supreme Court ought to see it that way, too.

If you need a longer refresher on the details of the case, I urge you to read this older post.

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.

  • kielc

    Sadly, the current SCOTUS, given its composition of certain debbil-fearin’ justices (I’m looking at you, Scalia), will likely side with the theists.

    • roz77

      Honestly, it’s probably going to come down to Anthony Kennedy. No way that Scalia, Thomas, or Alito side with Galloway, and it’s not likely that Roberts does either. I also think it’s likely that Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsberg, and Breyer do decide in Galloway’s favor, so we’ll see.

    • Sven2547

      It’s not even a case between theists and non-theists, it’s a case between Christian-supremacists and everyone else.
      And yeah, like roz77 said: Scalia, Thomas, and Alito fit the Christian-supremacist mold. Even if non-Christians were explicitly banned, I bet those three would side with Greece anyway. Roberts might accept the ultra-weak “we rarely allowed some non-Christians” argument. Kennedy is a coin-toss. Ginsburg and Breyer (both Jewish) and Kagan and Sotomayor (both sane) won’t buy it.

      • Exton

        Sven2547. “Christian-supremacists?” You are defiantly Christaphobic, and have no sense of the rich Christian history America has.

        “The man who has no sense of history, is like a man who has no ears or eyes”

        ― Adolf Hitler

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          It’s sad how you have to misrepresent words in order to libel people. Does Jesus love it when you do that?

        • dandaman

          “Rich Christian history America”. Now that’s rich, give me an example, Scopes perhaps?

    • BlowtorchOfReason

      That is what scares me. This case could be used as precedent for years to come.

  • Theseus

    The revisionist history and right wing fundie statements about the bible being a template for the country’s foundation are so over the top, that I would think that ANYONE that isn’t a dominionist nut case would feel unwelcome. The Indoctrination is so blatant and over the top that I get slack jawed when I read arguments that deny this.

    I always have to shake my head and chuckle when I hear these idiots start talking about religious freedom and that we’re getting to uppity over something that isn’t a big deal. RIGHT. Turn it around and hear what these jokers have to say if you asked them if was OK for a Wiccan, Pagan, or Muslim to open a council meeting with prayer…then watch the back peddling begin. Bloody hypocrites.

    • C Peterson

      Oh, they might acquiesce to a Wiccan or Muslim opening a council meeting with prayer. What about if they open just about every meeting?

  • MN Atheist

    I wouldn’t normally get to upset about these types of things. I am in court quite frequently with my job and I put up with the oath, only because rocking the god boat would be detrimental to my employment, or at least my future promotions. I am surrounded by small minded people. If they ask I tell them, but I don’t announce myself. But wow,watching the videos of the prayers in Greece is astounding. It is like sitting through a homily at a church. Not a quick 30 second thank you and please watch over us but 3 or 4 minutes of praise and thanks and blah blah blah. And also quite specific to christianity. How about just a moment of silence to allow for people to pray, ask for guidance, or to just clear their heads before the meeting…that covers it. All of the christians, jews, muslims, wiccans, etc can pray their little hearts out, and the non-believers can have one last chance to go over what they might say if given the chance to speak.

    Arguments that I hear are about prayer before a meeting in no way violates the 1st Amendment because it only says that Congress cannot establish a state religion. But so often we are told that it is not always the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law. What were the framers trying to do when they wrote it? I am no historical expert, so correct me if I am wrong please. I believe that at the time the Bill of Rights were written, congress (both state and federal) was it. Every little town and village probably did not have a structured political system in place. As we developed and grew it became necessary to construct county, township, and city government units because we were simply too big for one or two bodies of government to rule. I think that the Bill of Rights applies to all governing units. All the way down to the Greece…

    • Dave T

      Don’t Minnesota courts default to affirmations instead of oaths?

      • MN Atheist

        Same difference I guess…

    • Exton

      Your comments are an example of the Communist take over of America. In the Naked Communist.

      24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press
      25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography
      and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV
      26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.
      27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with
      “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for
      intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”
      28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the
      schools on the ground that it violates the principal of “separation of
      church and state.

      1. You can quickly check to see if the words “Separation of Church and State” are in the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights by looking at the documents yourself.

      2. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states that the Federal Government will not Establish a State Religion, such as some European Countries had at the time. It should be noted that at the time of the writing of the First Amendment that various States had dominate Churches, such as Connecticut had the Congregationalist, Massachusetts had the Puritans, & Virginia had the Baptist. The people did not want
      the Federal government to impose any one Religion or Denomination on
      all the States; each State preferred to have the freedom to choose a
      religion that the people preferred. It should also be noted that acknowledging “God” has always been a tradition in our country,
      (as indicated by our national motto “In God We Trust”) and as God is
      recognized by many faiths, it does not Establish any one religion but
      rather embraces many Religions and Denominations.

      3. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment states that the
      Federal Government will not interfere with the peoples freedom to
      worship God. It has long been a tradition for the country to observe National days of prayers in which people pray to God.
      Government decreed National Days of Prayer never established a national
      Religion but only encouraged people to worship God in their own
      faith. However, when the Supreme Court starts to make rules about the practice of or prohibits worship, prayer or Bible reading then they have violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
      When the Courts prohibit prayer or Bible reading they act to establish
      a secular faith in our country, and in doing so violate not only the
      Free Exercise Clause but also the Establishment Clause.

      • Feminerd

        You … don’t actually know what a Communist is, do you?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        oh good, another Dominionist who doesn’t understand why anyone would use a weird and arcane thing like a “shorthand term” to describe a concept in conversation.

        Not discussing religion is the NEUTRAL position, not “establishing a secular faith”, which is itself a blatant misunderstanding of what words mean.

      • MN Atheist

        Communism looks good on paper….but not so good in practice. so no, I am not supporting or suggesting communism. If you read my post carefully I think I made a statement that I wouldn’t normally be upset with the public prayer in government. But these guys take it way too far. Ask you god for guidance (but you have to invite speakers from any and all religions + the non-religious) and move on. God and government don’t make a very good pair. Don’t make it a long, drawn out prayer asking jesus to watch over and guide the decision making process of the town officials. It’s no different than sitting through a church service. Can’t they do that on their own?

        No the separation of church and state is not in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. But one of the major contributors to America’s birth wrote about it in letters. You have to take that into consideration when you try and figure out the intent of the First Amendment. You are simply going by the “letter of the law”. It isn’t always what it seems. The Fourteenth Amendment applies the Bill of Rights to the states. That means that the First Amendment applies to the states. It also applies to the cities, counties, and townships. On the other side of the coin, whether a government entity prays or not before a meeting in no way shape or form limits or denies you the freedom to exercise you religious beliefs. It doesn’t close your church. It doesn’t stop YOU from saying a prayer for your city or county boards. It doesn’t take your god from your home. It doesn’t put an end to christianity. It simply puts it where it belongs…in your hands. It is up to you how you want to live your life and how you want to practice your religion. It is not the place of any government body to promote, endorse, or otherwise any religious belief. They took it too far and now they are fighting to keep prayer in place. They chose to put their community in the spotlight. Like I said, keep it simple and most of us won’t get too bent out of shape.

        • Theseus

          Yeah but the “separation of church and state ” is a red herring that they like to pull out of the hat.

          I doesn’t need to literally say that, because it already explicitly prohibits an establishment of religion, which basically is the just another flippin’ way of saying “separation of church and state”.

      • Theseus

        Adults have always throughout history thoroughly enjoyed f***ing each other. Sex is not dirty you uptight fellow. Public standards for not performing such acts out in the open has not changed and they are not going to in the foreseeable future.

        Our foundation of Western civilization comes from Greece ( y’know that little ‘ol society that gave us democracy, philosophy, and science), which was arguably the most prominent society to promote sex and homosexuality as normal and healthy. As a matter of fact a very large percentage of the male population were “switch hittin” it. Greek civilization was wildly successful and their end if you will, only came about because of conquest and being absorbed by the Romans.

      • Rich Wilson

        I only have time for one of these:

        Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.

        Which is why homosexuality was punishable by five years in prison in the Soviet Union. /sarcasm

        Claims made by a Red Scare era evangelical FBI agent aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. I realize that’s an ad hominum attack. None of those things means he’s right or wrong. But it does bring his reliability on the subject into question.

        On the same theme, just because a particular action was espoused by Communism (although your homosexuality one certainly was not) doesn’t in and of itself make it wrong. So we’re each up a logical fallacy.

  • Carmen

    Does anyone know if the video was submitted to the Supreme Court? I hope it is part of the court record. Powerful stuff.

    • Rich Wilson

      I can’t recall which organization on the case, AU I think, put literally thousands of hours into scouring all the video they had and compiling the examples. Yes, it’s going to SCOTUS as evidence.

  • Brian P.


    I listened to a number of the prayers. As a closet non-theist with decades of attending hundreds of services at dozens of churches, with experience in detailed study of theology and its nuances across different streams of Christianity, these are really good prayers! I mean theologically. It’s like the whole chaplain-of-the-month thing took a life of its own and the clergy of the town found ways to out-pray each other. Theologically, most Sundays I don’t hear this much richness of preparation into prayers. At church, sometimes it’s actually rather bland civic religion and moral therapeutic deism of “Lord, we just pray that you would just help us, Lord.” At the churches I’ve attended and visited over the years, most the prayers uttered by clergy and lay leaders haven’t had a fraction of this quality of theological thought into their content. These prayers are by far more Christian than most churches’ ex tempore prayers slopping in their emoting! This is more churchy than church!

    Sadly though in their community’s Christian ecumenism and its emergence, what they missed is this–***graciousness for all***. They prayed for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. What they may not realize is that if there is a Holy Spirit, His guidance maybe coming through the Supreme Court’s ruling concerning the Establishment Cause. May peace on earth and good will toward others reign. And may by-force theocrats step out of the way so we can create a better place for us all to live. To borrow for a moment from Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, “The Just Society will be one in which the rights of minorities will be safe from the whims of intolerant majorities.” May Pastor Grace, when he prays “may righteousness truly be exalted” consider these things. May Fr Bradshaw when he prays “Thy will be done” bear this in mind. We live in a land dedicated to the struggle and pursuit of liberty and justice for *all*.

    And if that is misaligned with your town’s converged theology, you all be damned for it.

    • Rain

      What they may not realize is that if there is a Holy Spirit, His guidance maybe coming through the Supreme Court’s ruling concerning the Establishment Cause.

      Theologically, Jesus appointed all the rulers. Every ruler is like a walking talking freaking Tabernacle Choir Church Of The Freaking Churchy Church, theologically speaking. It don’t get any more churchier than that. So I don’t blame them for dropping to the floor praying out the wazoo every time they see an elected official. What bothers me is when they complain about government when the government is Jesus Approved™. I guess they forgot that part from theology school.

    • Exton

      There really is no “Establishment Cause.” it is just another bad supreme court Decision that try’s to make whole cloth out of nothing. The First Amendment was enacted only for a very narrow purpose and to
      prohibit a very specific offense. The Founders, however, not only chose
      NOT to establish federally any particular denomination of Christianity,
      they further never intended the First Amendment to become a vehicle to
      promote a pluralism of other religions. The real object of the 1st
      Amendment was not to countenance, mush less to advance, Mohammedanism,
      or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude
      all rivalry among Christian sects.

      • Feminerd

        Actually, you would be incorrect. The First Amendment was pushed heavily by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Both of them were very big into religious freedom for all, not just all Christians.

        Jefferson wrote, “it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

        Madison laid out his reasons for rejecting all Christian infiltration and teaching in government in an essay titled Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. A relevant quote is “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every…man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”

        George Washington wrote a letter to a Jewish synagogue in 1790 that states, “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. …For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

        Also note that Article 6 of the Constitution states that federal officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution, but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

        In other words, while some of the founders were sectarian, there were several very influential ones who were very much in favor of religious freedom for all, not just Christians.

      • Sven2547

        There really is no “Establishment Cause.”

        Except for, you know, the ACTUAL Establishment Clause.

      • MN Atheist

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
        prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
        speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
        assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

        It says ESTABLISHMENT in the first sentence. But I guess you can see history however you want to. Just ignore what you don’t agree with…

        • Theseus

          Yeah that’s pretty explicit.

          However I’ve noticed David Barton fundie revisionists are fond of what I call the “Yeah that’s what it says, BUT here’s what they REALLY meant” type of thinking. In other words they believe that it was a given or common knowledge of the day that this didn’t apply to Christianity but only to other religions, so they didn’t feel the need to write it down. The mind boggles. To think that guys as intelligent as this, wouldn’t have explicitly stated that they intended for Christianity to have a special favoritism in the country’s most important official document, is just sheer stupidity .

      • Theseus

        Um, that’s kind of a weird take on the whole thing.

        Wouldn’t it be kind of strange for the most prominent and influential of the founders (that had a number of Deists and Unitarians among them), to give favoritism to Christianity?

        I think ‘ol Thomas Paine (who’s ideas were instrumental and implemented in both the writing of the Declaration and Constitution) would laugh at the notion that he was being duped and really didn’t understand that this was actually a “Christian nation”, and his kind wasn’t really welcome. Plus, you cannot point to any reliable source that disputes Thomas Jefferson’s many statements concerning his rejection of the supernatural material in the Gospels (not without quote mining that is).

      • David Corpus

        Wow, quoting the lies of David Barton in an atheist forum. You had to be giggling while you typed this troll nonsense. “The First Amendment was not about protecting religious pluralism at all, but only designed to prevent the federal government from choosing one group of Christians over another.”

    • MN Atheist

      Nicely said!

  • texan

    Thanks for the update. I am just commenting to say one thing that seems to slip through the cracks in these discussions (though I see it has already come up here, I think it bears repeating). This is not atheists attacking god, religion, or prayer. It is citizens who understand the law, trying to see it enforced. Any non-Christian should be able to see the problem easily, but, given the range of beliefs among Christian denominations, there is no reason they should not appreciate the cause, as well. If you think snake-handlers are nuts, don’t you want them kept out of government? And, if you are a snake handler, don’t you want to make sure those who don’t can’t make it illegal?

    We all share our government. Religion is a personal thing. They should be kept separate not just because it is the law, but because it is the best way to ensure all citizens are treated equally. You don’t have to believe or fail to believe for that.

  • Anna
  • Mario Strada

    Since the town is named “Greece”, shouldn’t we have invocations to Athena every once in a while?

    It would be hilarious if they had a town named “Sparta” nearby. If they did, the first thing I would do as new mayor of Sparta would be to build a bottomless pit and invite the Greece councilmembers for a visit.

    • Crash Override

      As long as they have MISTER Tibbs on the local police force.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Seems that having your Spartan minions building a bottomless pit would be a great way to ensure peace between your cities. Or rather that your lot wouldn’t be starting any conflicts for as long as you kept at it.

    • Supertoastfairy

      I’m going to go there and pray an invocation for the mercy of Poseidon.

  • 5oh4

    I used to work in Greece, NY in my younger days, think of it as the Jersey Shore minus the class. A large Italian/ Catholic community.