Greece changes prayer policy
Updated: Monday, August 25 2014, 10:02 AM EDT
Greece N.Y. - In a unanimous vote at a recent town board meeting, the Town of Greece made changes to its prayer policy that have been the source of much controversy.
The changes are coming under criticism from some atheists who say the new policy denies them the opportunity to give invocations.
A Supreme Court decision back in May gave Greece the green light to continue a tradition of saying a prayer or invocation, prior to town board meetings.
Shortly after that ruling, atheist Dan Courtney gave an invocation, becoming the first atheist to do so at a Greece town board meeting.
Under the new policy, the invocation can only be delivered by an appointed religious representative on a list approved by the Town clerk. Churches, synagogues, congregations, temples and mosques are mentioned, but atheists are not.
"This is an affront, not just to non-believers, but all citizens of Greece," Courtney said. "Despite telling the Supreme Court that anybody could give an invocation, they've now come up with a policy that says and atheist can't give one."
13WHAM News reached out to Town Supervisor Bill Reilich (R) to explain the policy, but he declined to do so, and instead suggested that 13WHAM News speak with the town's attorney, Brian Marianetti.
Marianetti tells 13WHAM News the changes to the invocation policy were not motivated by a desire to spite atheists. He said the changes came about after he was told the town was inundated with requests for people from across the country who wanted to give invocations, but had no connection to Greece.
He said the changes to the policy will keep the invocations local, and take Greece out of the national spotlight brought about from the Supreme Court case.
"It is our desire to focus our efforts on serving the residents of the Town of Greece," he wrote in an email to 13WHAM News. "With this policy in place, we are hopeful that we can return to the business of the Town."
When asked if atheists would be able to give invocations with the new policy changes in place, Marianetti acknowledged that he didn't know if that would be a possibility, and added that would be up to the Town Clerk and Town Board.