Atheist Delivers ‘Invocation’ to Open City Council Meeting

By Penny Starr | July 16, 2014 | 4:12 PM EDT

Dan Courtney, of Hamlin, N.Y., and an atheist, delivers the invocation at the Greece, N.Y., town board meeting, Tuesday July 15, 2014 (AP Photo)" link="/image/dan-courtney" nid="815564" preset="medium" teaser="0

( – Just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Town of Greece v. Galloway that a New York State city council was not violating the Constitution by opening meetings with an invocation, an atheist offered a “prayer” on Tuesday.

Dan Courtney, described in a press release announcing his invocation as “a member of the Atheist Community of Rochester,” spoke for about three minutes at the opening of the council meeting.

“Freethinkers, atheists, non-believers, whatever label you wish, this group comprises a significant part of our population,” Courtney began. “I am honored to be providing an invocation on their behalf, and on the behalf of all the citizens of the town of Greece.”

Courtney went on to say that citizens are in charge of creating government and consenting to being governed, and while he did not mention God in his invocation, he did refer to language from the book of Revelations in the Bible.

“We, as citizens, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega of our destiny are not, as the great philosopher Immanuel Kant warned, mere means to the ends of another, but we are ends in ourselves.”

Revelations 1:8 states: "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

Courtney and his supporters held a press conference following his remarks where Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of the “secular advocacy” group, Center for Inquiry, said Courtney’s remarks were “significant” and “historic” even if the invocation only lasted a few minutes.

“Make no mistake about it. This was an event of considerable significance, indeed, of historic significance,” Lindsay said.

As Lindsay spoke surrounded by about a dozen supporters holding signs that read, “I stand for secular values,” the wind begin swirling around the group.

“If this nation is to truly represent the diversity of views held in this country – and that includes the views of substantial number of Americans who do not believe in God, and Dan’s opening remarks today we believe represent an important step forward toward that objective,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay expressed disappointment in the court’s decision and said he wished the town meetings could begin “with no invocation at all.”

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first definition of invocation is: “the act or process of petitioning for help or support; specifically often capitalized: a prayer of entreaty (as at the beginning of a service of worship).”

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2012, 2.4 percent of the U.S. population identified themselves as atheists.