Atheists can be barred from giving invocation at Pennsylvania statehouse, federal court rules

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that only those that believe in a god may give invocations at the Pennsylvania statehouse.

Atheists, agnostics, and other non theists may be barred from giving the invocation. Only a member of the House, a member of an established church or a religious organization may do so.

The court ruled that the policy does not violate a nontheistic person’s First Amendment rights because it abides by the “historical tradition of legislative prayer” and counts as government speech, which allows a governmental entity to select specific views, NBC News reported.

“First, only theistic prayer can satisfy all the traditional purposes of legislative prayer. Second, the Supreme Court has long taken as given that prayer presumes invoking a higher power,” the appeals court ruled. “Legislative prayer has historically served many purposes, both secular and religious. Because only theistic prayer can achieve them all, the historical tradition supports the House’s choice to restrict prayer to theistic invocations.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State who were on the losing side posted a statement on twitter.

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