Atheists are treated like second-class citizens
The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Greece v. Galloway, which involved Christian prayers at City Council meetings [“Supreme Court hears case on public prayer,” News, Nov. 7].
Nondenominational prayers would be better than sectarian prayers, but it’s not acceptable to atheists, who don’t pray. If the court were consistent it would find nondenominational prayers unconstitutional, just as prayers in public classrooms are impermissible even if nondenominational.
The court didn’t bother considering the best solution: removing all government prayer. Why? Because atheists don’t count. Trying to determine what types of prayer would be acceptable to everyone, Chief Justice John Roberts asked, “We’ve already excluded the atheists, right?” A lawyer agreed: “Atheists cannot get full relief in this context, and the McCreary dissenters said that explicitly.” He was referring to the McCreary dissenting opinion in 2005 (written by Justice Antonin Scalia), which claimed that our Constitution “permits the disregard of devout atheists.”
So it’s simply assumed that atheists are second-class citizens. Imagine if the court declared that “Jews are excluded” or “The Constitution permits the disregard of blacks.” The uproar would be deafening. But when atheists are involved, we hear not a peep from the mainstream media or anyone else. Let’s hear it for the separation of church and state.
Matthew Barry, Issaquah