The following was derived from an article by Antonia Blumberg in the Huffington Post.
At a July 15 meeting of the town board of Greece, New York, the "invocation" was given by Dan Courtney, an atheist.
There was no reference to a deity to which we must offer supplication or a god from whom we derive our rights and our freedoms. Courtney turned that old wisdom on its head which must have been jarring to those more familiar with the pious verbiage posited by the usual clerical suspects which usually concludes with the horrid phrase, "God Bless America."
"We can say with confidence," said Courtney, "that it is in seeking the counsel of our conscience that we find the beginning of wisdom. It is in the exercise of our duty as citizens that we find the beginning of knowledge."
Here is the full text of his remarks:
Thank you, Supervisor Rielich, for allowing me to offer the invocation.
Freethinkers, atheists, non-believers, whatever label you wish, this group comprises a significant part of our population. I am honored to be providing an invocation on their behalf, and on behalf of all the citizens of the town of Greece.
On July 4th, 1776, the 56 men who pledged their lives to the document that changed the course of history, agreed to the central tenet that, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” More than 238 years later this central premise still echoes, however faintly, from the town hall to the white columned halls of Washington.
Yet this premise, this foundation necessary for a free and flourishing society, is today, more than ever, under assault. This central pillar of a free society - this notion that is deeply heretical to authoritarian culture, proclaims that it is from the people that moral authority is derived. It is that within us, the citizens, that knowledge and wisdom must emerge.
The preservation of this premise does not come from accepting the status quo, but by asserting our rights and exercising our duties. That this premise still endures testifies to its truth, and we can say with confidence that it is in seeking the counsel of our conscience that we find the beginning of wisdom. It is in the exercise of our duty as citizens that we find the beginning of knowledge.
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. This basic premise, this profound idea, guides us such that we need not kneel to any king, and we need not bow to any tyrant.
So I ask all officials present here, as guarantors of our founder’s revolutionary proclamation, to heed the counsel of the governed; to seek the wisdom of all citizens, and to honor the enlightened wisdom and the profound courage of those 56 brave men. Thank you.
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Note especially the phrase, "...it is from the people that moral authority is derived." This is crucial to a democratic system and its importance is set in stark relief against the renewed attacks in these woebegone days by theocrats who have vowed not to rest until the United States has knelt in surrender to their god and their laws. These people call themselves "Christians" although their Christ would neither recognize them nor approve of their goals or their methods.
Unfortunately, they have been given new life by the recent Supreme Court decision to allow corporations such as Hobby Lobby to force its employees to kneel to its religious beliefs - although in what alternate universe a corporation can have religious beliefs is beyond me.