...and have your public prayer published here.
What is an Agnostic?
Why I Am Not A
MURRAY CITY OPENING PRAYER
Tom Snyder (R.I.P.)
OUR MOTHER, who art in heaven (if indeed there is a heaven and if there is a god that takes a woman's form) hallowed be thy name, we ask for thy blessing
for and guidance of those that will participate in this meeting and for those mortals that govern the state of Utah;
We fervently ask that you guide the leaders of this city, Salt Lake County and the state of Utah so that they may see the wisdom of separating church and
state and so that they will never again perform demeaning religious ceremonies as part of official government functions;
We pray that you prevent self-righteous politicians from mis-using the name of God in conducting government meetings; and, that you lead them away from
the hypocritical and blasphemous deception of the public, attempting to make the people believe that bureaucrats' decisions and actions have thy stamp of approval if
prayers are offered at the beginning of government meetings;
We ask that you grant Utah's leaders and politicians enough courage and discernment to understand that religion is a private matter between every
individual and his or her deity; we beseech thee to educate government leaders that religious beliefs should not be broadcast and revealed for the purpose of impressing
others; we pray that you strike down those that mis-use your name and those that cheapen the institution of prayer by using it for their own selfish political gains;
We ask that the people of the state of Utah will some day learn the wisdom of the separation of church and state; we ask that you will teach the people of
Utah that government should not participate in religion; we pray that you smite those government officials that would attempt to censor or control prayers made by anyone
to you or to any other of our gods;
We ask that you deliver us from the evil
of forced religious worship now sought to be imposed upon the people of the
state of Utah by the actions of misguided, weak and stupid politicians, who
abuse power in their own self-righteousness.
All of this we ask in thy name and in the name of thy son (if in fact you had a son that visited Earth) for the eternal betterment of all of us who
populate the great state of Utah. -
Logan politician doesn't have a prayer
Atheists recruiting medley of prayer-givers
"Chris Allen" <***>
Subject: Re: Logan welcomes Buddhists, Muslims, atheists,
agnostics and other creeds to pray
Perhaps Utah Atheists could help out in recruiting and encouraging some
unconventional prayer givers. Some possible options:
Local Native American Medicine Men
Wickens (Is the Golden Braid still open?)
Gays and Lesbians
Gay Mormons (Research through alternative press)
Lighthouse Mission (Tanners)
Helen Radkey (re Mormon baptism of Jewish holocaust victims)
Other Mormon dissidents
Times of India
15 Feb 2008 New York
The senate of Utah, a US state dominated by Mormons, was opened for
the first time with a Hindu prayer involving the chanting of Sanskrit mantras.
Rajan Zed, a prominent Hindu chaplain who has earlier read prayers in the US
senate and state senates, read the opening prayer Wednesday from ancient
scriptures before the Utah senate in Salt Lake City. After first delivering the
prayer in Sanskrit, he read its English translation.
Utah is the world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, better known as Mormonism, founded in 1830.
Mormons, known to be orthodox and conservative, account for over 60 per cent of
the state's population of about 2.5 million.
Zed sprinkled holy water from the Ganges on the podium before starting the p
rayer. He recited from the Rig-Veda, besides lines from Upanishads and the Gita.
He started and ended the prayer with "Om", the Hindu mystical syllable.
Zed presented a copy of the Bhagavad Gita to senate president John L. Valentine
who thanked him for the historic prayer.
Senate majority leader Curtis S. Bramble said that the theme of the prayer was
peace and he put forth a resolution to include the prayer in the Senate Journal,
which was unanimously passed.
family of 5beheaded, REALLY
They want Satanists, Druids, psychics to pray at County
E l a i n e J a r v i k Deseret News staff
How about Druids, Chris Allen suggests. Or maybe the Ku Klux Klan, or the
Satanists? These are some of the folks Allen is recruiting to offer prayers at
Salt Lake County Council meetings.
The County Council last month voted to begin every meeting with a moment of
prayer, and that has
Allen and fellow members of Utah Atheists
coming up with a litany of possible supplicants.
"We want to recruit people from the New Age group, people with tarot cards,
psychics, crystal healers. We need to get Native Americans who are involved in
the peyote cult," Allen told members of Utah Atheists at their monthly meeting.
"I feel pretty confident the Pagan Student Association at the U. would get
Faced with so many unconventional prayers and prayer givers, Utah Atheists
hope, the County Council will soon realize that it's just too uncomfortable to
begin its meetings appealing to a higher power.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake attorney Brian Barnard is also "working on filing some
litigation," he told the Utah Atheists. Barnard was the group's featured speaker
at its February meeting.
"You can't attack it head on, because the U.S. Supreme Court and the State
Supreme Court say you can have prayers before public meetings," Barnard told the
group. "The way to attack it is to show the County Council the folly of their
ways: 'You want diversity, we'll give you diversity!' "
The new County Council voted 6-3 on the prayer motion and delegated to one
of its administrative assistants the job of making sure the prayers represent a
cross-section of beliefs. One of council members voting against the public
prayer motion was Joe Hatch. Hatch said "they should call it the Brian Barnard
Full Employment" motion, Barnard drolly noted.
has represented other litigants in separation- of-church- and-state battles,
including Utah Atheists member Tom Snyder, who in 1994 was barred from offering
a prayer at the opening of a Murray City Council meeting.
"Our mother, who art in heaven (if indeed there is a heaven and if there
is a god that takes a woman's form), hallowed be thy name," Snyder's prayer
began. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled in 1998 that Murray
City had the right to exclude his prayer, and a year later the U.S.
Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal. His federal lawsuit thrown out, Snyder
filed a separate lawsuit in Utah's 3rd District Court, where he is seeking
Snyder tried to offer the same prayer before a Salt Lake City Council
meeting in 1994, eventually causing the city to discontinue opening prayers
Allowing only certain kinds of prayers blurs the line between government
and religion — a line that is necessary so that anyone has the
right to free expression of a religion, or the free expression of no religion,
Ironically, he added, when the Salt Lake City Council did allow prayers it
issued guidelines that forced the prayers to be "generic and bland."
(Those guidelines required that the prayers be non-denominational, should not
offend anyone and should be non-proselytizing.) This too blurred the line
between church and state, he said.
Not everyone at the group's monthly meeting agreed with the decision to
recruit prayer givers from obviously fringe groups such as polygamists, Goths
and skinheads. "If we present something clearly absurd, then it will be easy to
dismiss," noted one member. Maybe, he said, the group should issue "an atheist
and others disagreed. "We took the direct approach before" and lost, Allen said.
Reprinted with permission. Original article from Feb 6, 2001 is at http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,250009169,00.html
Erratum: The original article reported "$3 million in
punitive damages." This should have read "minimal damagers." -- corrected by
Elaine Jarvik 2-7-1.
Julian Hatch Director firstname.lastname@example.org
4700 South 900 East Suite 30-132
Salt Lake City, Utah 84117
Carol B. Lear
Utah State Office of Education
250 East 500 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4200
Thank you for your reply of December 9, 2004. Thanks also for
encouraging the development/review of policies and practices concerning opening
remarks/prayers at public meetings. The "USOE analysis" that was attached
provides a good start.
While we are confident the Utah Supreme Court would approve of
these efforts, we see some problems and offer some criticism. We do not agree
that the analysis or the current practice of the Utah State Board of Education
are consistent with Society of Separationists v. Whitehead. Much of the
deference you give to neutrality, non-discrimination, equal access, and
diversity is merely cosmetic.
First we must correct a common mis-representation. Separation of
state and church is a restriction on government, not on the public. To protect
the freedom of conscience of citizens, government officials are constrained from
using their official power to promote their personal religious agendas. Their
oath of office to enforce the Constitution officially constrains them. We are a
government "of the people", but when citizens are part of the government, they
are bound by that obligation.
The supposed "hostility toward religion" referenced in your letter
concerned a presumed restriction on the public at government meetings. (SOS v.
Whitehead, 870 P.2d 934) The entire decision permitting prayer at government
meetings turned on the facts of that one situation.
The limited forum in effect at meetings of the Utah State Board of
Education does not conform to those facts. Only government officials and
employees are currently allowed to give the "reverence", and only the Board
members choose to have one. We can find nothing in SOS v. Whitehead supporting a
On the contrary we find many references specifying a completely
Concerning the practice of the Salt Lake City Council, "First,
the invitations [to those offering prayers] should be extended to a variety of
community members, including not only ministers and religious officials, but
representatives of civic organizations as well." (SOS v. Whitehead, 870 P.2d
* Concerning the Utah constitutional convention of 1895 as a
precedent, "The convention's delegates manifested a parallel intention to put
behind them the struggles of the preceding half-century and to bring all Utahns
together. Opening prayer was held daily during the convention, but it was
offered by ministers of various denominations displaying far more diversity than
chance or the heavily Mormon membership of the convention would lead one to
expect". (ibid 936)
* Concerning an indirect benefit to religion, "The middle ground
we seek rests on the concept of governmental neutrality we find underlying our
constitution's religion and conscience clauses, which in this instance means
neutrality in the use of public money or property. When the state is neutral,
any benefit flowing to religious worship, exercise or instruction can be fairly
characterized as indirect because the benefit flows to all those who are
beneficiaries of the use of government money or property, which may include, but
is not limited to, those engaged to religious worship, exercise or instruction."
* Concerning the Court's two prong test, which you refer to, the
first prong is non-discrimination. "If a city permits groups to use city-owned
facilities, that use must be permitted without regard to the belief system of
the user. Lutherans or Latter-day Saints who wish to use the facilities must
have access on exactly the same terms as the Loyal Order of Moose, the American
Atheist Society, or the Libertarian Party. The same would be true for services."
* The second prong is equal access. "... the terms of access must
be such that all users have a realistically equal opportunity for the use of the
public resource. For if government allows all groups to apply for the benefit
but then discriminates in the selection process, it would be preferring one
group over the other in violation of the constitutional principle of
It is not enough to claim that atheists could be elected to the
Board. Avowed [sic] atheists do not have a "realistically equal opportunity" to
participate when the great majority is religious.
We are not suggesting that "welcoming thoughts" be opened to the
public, since that leaves the door open to uncontrollable confrontation.
(Snyder v. Murray, 2003 UT) The "standards" you recommend
in your attachment stating "remarks must be civil and not defamatory" would
probably not be legally acceptable.
We merely suggest that the welcome be restricted to appropriate
secular greetings consistent with conducting the business of the Board. Since
the Board already has one public forum in its "public participation/comments"
segment, it would look suspiciously contrived for the Board to open a second
one-person forum just to accommodate an opening prayer.
Our second concern is a serious lack of neutrality with respect to
religion in government. You give lip service to non-discrimination, equal
access, and diversity, but the current practice and performance of the State
Board of Education, which you claim is "consistent" with the Utah Supreme Court
in SOS v. Whitehead, strongly trumpets the opposite.
In the SOS case, SOS charged that article I section 4 of the
constitution was violated where it states, "there shall be no union of Church
and State, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its
functions." (SOS v. Whitehead, 870 P.2d 939) While the Court found insufficient
evidence in that case, there is abundant evidence of such violations in the Utah
public schools today.
School leadership seems determined to demonstrate that they are
religious people who cannot function without Christian (Mormon?) ritual. The
clear implication is that they will be prejudiced by such values in running the
schools, and will discriminate against non-religion.
The Mormon's have no need of private Mormon schools when they
control the public schools. There is no embarrassment at the convenient close
proximity of Mormon seminaries to Utah public high schools when those schools
are sited. When a seminary burned in the Salt Lake valley, the public schools
welcomed the seminary classes into their buildings. The Office of Education, the
Legislature, and the LDS Church cooperate to support an ongoing program to train
teachers how to teach uncritically "about" religion in the classroom. The only
public entrance to your building even sports a large "God Bless America" sign on
the back of the security guard's computer monitor.
The Utah Supreme Court incorporated fifteen pages of Mormon history
into SOS v. Whitehead, and then based its decision on the "hostility to
religion" concept outlined in the LDS First Presidency's 1979 statement on
"America's Religious Heritage". Salt Lake City got along for decades without
opening prayers in their meetings, but after that statement was released
endorsing opening prayers, suddenly the prayers were necessary. The Utah Chamber
of Commerce might as well state for all the world to see that Utah schools are
dominated by religious leaders who will subtly but steadily pressure students to
become Mormons and go on missions for the LDS Church.
One would think school leaders might be concerned about this, but
no. In addition to all the foregoing, you seem determined to find a way to
rationalize or legalize the continued practice of opening prayers.
Your letter refers to "welcoming remarks" and "opening remarks", but they were
never identified as such until we showed up. We have examined the openings in
the meetings archived on the internet
Every one is a sectarian prayer to Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ.
Every one is identified in religious terms as a "reverence" (worship,
sanctification) or "invocation". There are no exceptions. The Board has
routinely preferred religion over non-religion. This is not a forum that has
been equally accessible to all - it is simply an instrument for demonstrating
This custom is so well established that it constitutes a religious
test for public office. Every board member must be prepared to participate in
ritual worship at meetings or face political retribution from the religious
We hope you will find these comments constructive in
formulating a sound policy for the smooth operation of public school meetings.
We look forward to seeing such a policy. As far as local school boards are
concerned, we will follow up separately with them.
For the Board of Directors
cc: Utah State Board of Education
Dr. Patti Harrington,
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
John S. McAllister,
Assistant Attorney General
I'm an education reporter at the Deseret Morning News and I'm doing a story
about school prayer. They're changing the wording on school board agendas so it
doesn't look like the state's sponsoring the prayer. Someone from the state
office of education told me that the Utah Atheists sent letters reminding the
school boards of the law. Anyway, I'm doing a story on this. I got your e-mail
addresses from DMN reporter Elaine Jarvik and was wondering if I could talk to one of you by
phone? Please e-mail me with phone numbers. I probably won't call anyone until
late afternoon or early evening because I'm on interviews all morning.
Thanks -- Laura
Deseret Morning News
1280 S. 800 East, Suite 300
Orem, Utah 84097
Article Last Updated: 2/10/2005 08:17 AM
School board prayer advisory challenged
B y M i k e C r o n i n
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
More than half of Utah's cities and towns get it. The Utah Supreme Court
does, too. But Utah Atheists says the state's Office of Education misses the
The head of Utah Atheists said the office is one of a few public entities
that could seek to limit a meeting's opening remarks, which could include
prayers, to state school board members.
"This goes against the Society of Separationists v. Whitehead decision,"
said the organization's director, Julian Hatch, referring to a 1993 Utah
Supreme Court decision. That ruling, followed by many Utah cities, allows
prayer in government meetings - as long as an opportunity to pray is
extended to anyone, including audience members.
"It has to be free speech for everyone," he said. In response to an October
letter from Hatch that protested the state school board's opening remarks
procedure, Office of Education attorney Carol Lear in December sent
suggestions to Utah's school districts.
"We're not directing them how to act," Lear said. "That's up to them. We
simply provided them with information."
Lear's suggestions say the state and local boards of education should:
* Develop a policy about opening remarks at meetings.
* Replace "opening prayer" or "invocation" with "more neutral" phrases such
as "opening remarks", "reverence" or "welcoming remarks."
* Designate the people who will begin meetings.
Lear also concludes that school boards may restrict opening remarks to board
Hatch then responded last month to Lear's December mailing and outlined his
group's continued objections to the state school board's policy.
Janet Cannon, vice chairwoman of the state school board, was not aware of
Lear's recommendations to local school districts. Cannon said that the board
will consider changing its bylaws to deal with the opening remarks issue at
its Feb. 18 meeting.
Jordan School Board President Peggy Jo Kennett said she and her colleagues
decided a few years ago to change the name of the beginning of meetings to
"Sometimes people give a thought; sometimes they give a prayer - whatever
the person feels like they'd like to do," she said. "We give absolutely no
direction to what they should say. So, we're comfortable with what Carol
Lear has said."
NO MORE GOVERNMENT SPONSORED PRAYER RALLIES -
SETTLEMENT FINALIZED IN JACKSONVILLE, FLA. CASE
February 26, 2007
Final settlement has been reached in a case involving the use of
government money to promote and organize a prayer rally in Jacksonville,
Fla. In August, 2006, Jacksonville officials spent approximately
$100,000 of taxpayer money to stage a Day of Faith: Arming Our Prayer
Warriors" revival meeting featuring government and police officials, and
clergy from the area. The religious gathering was supposedly staged to
combat the city's soaring homicide rate. AMERICAN ATHEISTS, a nationwide
movement defending the separation of church and state, unsuccessfully
tried to stop the event, but has now reached a settlement with the city.
Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists, said
that in a public letter, Jacksonville officials have announced that they
will pay legal costs incurred by the organization. The City also agreed
to provide all municipal departments with a notice stating: "With regard
to any program that may be presented... (1) Each program must have a
secular purpose; (2) Each program must be one which neither advances nor
inhibits religion; and (3) Each program must not foster excessive
entanglement with religion." Kagin hailed the settlement as a victory
for the First Amendment. "We made a solid case that this event
encouraged people to 'prayer warriors' and was used to fund an event
saturated with religious slogans, prayer, and clergy."
use public money to put on a religious event," Kagin added. He added
that while city officials were still making statements to news media
defending the prayer rally, "I don't think we're going to be seeing this
sort of constitutional violation in Jacksonville."
Johnson, President of American Atheists, said: "Despite all
of the prayers, Jacksonville's homicide rate remains high. The answer to
problems like this is social action -- better schools, jobs and civic
institutions. All the praying the world doesn't solve unemployment, lack
of education, and other social problems."
For further comment,
contact: Edwin Kagin, (859) 384-7000 or Ellen Johnson, (908) 276-7300
AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights
for Atheists; works for the total separation of church and state; and
addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.
P. O. Box 5733
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733
Fax: (908) 276-7402
Volunteers welcome to offer prayer at City
By Karen Lambert
Catholics, Buddhists, Mormons, Muslims, atheists, agnostics and those of any
other creed will have an opportunity to pray at Logan Municipal Council
meetings — if they step up and volunteer.
While Council Chairwoman Laraine Swenson will no longer schedule the
traditional opening ceremony, she said at Tuesday’s council meeting she has
contacted Cache Community Connections to inform religious leaders she
welcomes those who would like to volunteer to say a prayer or thought. She
informed The Herald Journal that would apply to any resident.
“Having volunteers pray eliminates any pressure on those who for whatever
reason are uncomfortable praying upon request and allows those who would
like to participate to do so,” Swenson wrote in an e-mail to The Herald
Journal on Thursday.
However, she has set some criteria. The prayer or thought must be three
minutes or less. The name of the person set to pray or give a thought must
be on the agenda by the Thursday preceding the council meeting. All
volunteers will be assigned a meeting, unless there is more interest than
Already, two individuals have requested to pray and are scheduled at the
next two meetings, Swenson said.
One of those is Councilman Jay Monson, who said he’d be happy to pray any
time no other volunteer steps up.
“I believe in prayer at the beginning of public meetings,” Monson said. “I
was a member of the State Board of Education for three years and I was a
county commissioner and then a councilmember and we always had a prayer.”
Monson said prayer was part of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s inauguration last
week and is a practice of the Utah Legislature and the U.S. Congress. When
he was a professor at the University of Cairo in Egypt, he said the first
thing people heard each morning in the Muslim community was the call to
“In all the countries of the world prayer is common,” Monson said. “Whether
they believe in the same supreme being that I do, I still think it’s prayer;
I really do believe we’re all one when it comes right down to it. ... In our
community of Logan, we’re a community of churches. I believe that’s the
common bond that ties us altogether. So I’m firmly committed to prayer.”
However, Monson said he doesn’t believe anyone who’s uncomfortable — whether
by attending a meeting or as an elected official — should feel they need to
participate in prayer. He said he doesn’t see any harm in allowing agnostics
or atheists in participating in their own way either.
“I hope we do have volunteers from religions other than the predominant
religion in Utah because whatever religion a person belongs to they would
have a right to have a comment and offer a prayer,” he said.
Logan City Attorney Kymber Housley said courts have stated prayer is allowed
as part of a city’s opening ceremony if there’s a neutral policy to ensure
all have equal opportunity to participate.
“You don’t review somebody’s prayer for content,” Housley said. “You just
have to open it up to anyone that wants to — atheists, agnostics, anyone.”
That was just as true under Logan’s former policy as it is under Swenson’s
new one, he said.
Swenson said her husband, Doug, was among the original founders of Cache
Community Connections and enjoyed visiting services of other denominations
and getting to know religious and civic leaders of Cache Valley.
“I also enjoyed those associations with people for whom we both have the
greatest respect,” she said.
BUCKNER TO "INVOKE," CHALLENGE PRAYER AT COBB COUNTY
DR. ED BUCKNER, President of American Atheists has been chosen to deliver
the "invocation" at next Tuesday's meeting of the Cobb County, GA.
Commission.. The event will take place at the BOC Room, second floor, 100
Cherokee St. in Marietta, GA. at 7:00 PM. The venue is located off the
square in Marietta.
According to dictionaries, an "invocation" is an act "calling on a higher
Ed Buckner was one of the plaintiffs in a 2006 law suit which challenged the
practice of having sectarian prayer to open County Commission meetings.
Those chosen to deliver the prayer reflected a sectarian, often evangelical
Christian point of view. One result of the suit was that the court
criticized this practice; since then, the County has been trying to keep
prayer in government by randomly selecting people to deliver an
Buckner firmly opposes any and all prayer, whatever its denominational
affiliation, at government meetings.
There MAY be an informal, on-your-own social event/get-together following
the Cobb County event. For more information, e-mail Ed Buckner at email@example.com
or call 770-803-5353.
WHO & WHAT: Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists, delivers a very
special "invocation" at the Cobb County Commission Meeting.
WHEN: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 7:00 PM
WHERE: BOC Room, second floor, 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta, GA. at 7:00 PM.
The venue is located off the square in Marietta.
MORE INFO: For more information, e-mail Ed Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 770-803-5353.
(AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for
Atheists, Freethinkers and other nonbelievers; works for the total
separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment
Deseret News (Salt Lake City), Dec 10, 2007
Mitt Romney, as a good Mormon, must pay 10 percent of his gross income to
his church in Salt Lake City. He thus supports an organization that
battalions thousands of missionaries throughout the world to explain to
their audience that they have the wrong religion and will not fare well in
the hereafter unless they switch to the Mormon tithe-demanding religion. Yet
today he espoused tolerance in matters of faith. Is he ... what do we call
it these days ... "disingenuous"?
'dedicated' atheist, too... But----
Life after death is not necessarily connected with religion, gods...
Perhaps mostly atheists would see freezing -- cryonics -- freezing of the
whole body or of just the head as a viable alternative to achieve
resurrection. There is no theoretical reason why a well-preserved
brain cannot be rejuvenated and connected with a new body. Perhaps
mostly atheists would see life after death. Wouldn't that be funny!
Shhh -- don't pass it on! Why drag these god-morons along,
into the next life?
BTW I checked out your cattabe page, it is great!