Chambersburg Harrisburg Lancaster Lebanon York

PA Nonbelievers and others sue to allow non-theist invocations before the PA State House of Representatives

Many of you know that members of PAN and other non-theistic Pennsylvanians have tried for years to offer an invocation before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. An invocation can be secular, and we have offered to present non-theistic opening messages before that body gets down to business. The House has turned us down.

Around the country, many cities, towns, boroughs and townships (as well as some state legislatures) have decided differently. They have decided that in a diverse country, all voices deserve to be heard. Thus, they have welcomed invocations from a variety of Christians as well as from Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Pagans and yes, atheists, Humanists and freethinkers.

I’m proud that, representing PAN, I’m now a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed on August 22nd by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and American Atheists (PAN is a local partner of American Atheists) that opposes this clearly unconstitutional policy. The other plaintiffs in the case include PAN member Joshua Neiderhiser; Dillsburg Area Freethinkers, its chief organizer Paul Tucker, and member Deana Weaver; and Lancaster Freethought Society and its president Scott Rhoades.

In AU’s press release announcing the lawsuit, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director, stated, “When governmental bodies open their meetings with invocations, no viewpoints should be excluded. That includes people who do not believe in God. No one should be made to feel like a second-class citizen by their government.”

AU’s Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser added the following: “Just like people who believe in God, Atheists and Humanists are capable of delivering inspiring and moving invocations. There is no good reason for the House to exclude them.”

All we’re asking for is equal time. We’d like to give a secular invocation. It would not be critical of anyone’s religion. It would not be disrespectful. It would just be non-theistic. Why won’t the Pennsylvania House leadership agree to this simple, reasonable request?

Brian Fields
PA Nonbelievers

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