Appeals Court: No Requirement for Atheist Invocation

The US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit ruled last week that the US House of Representatives was not required to permit an atheist to “pray”. Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation had sued Patrick Conroy, the former House Chaplain, for denying him the opportunity to “pray” at the opening of the legislative day.

Importantly, the court made a point of saying the House’s exercise was a religious exercise — and since Barker wasn’t offering a religious exercise, he had no claim:

“Even though we accept as true Barker’s allegation that Conroy rejected him ‘because he is an atheist,’ the House’s requirement that prayers must be religious nonetheless precludes Barker from doing the very thing he asks us to order Conroy to allow him to do: deliver a secular prayer,” he wrote…

“More important,” Tatel wrote, “the House of Representatives itself, through House counsel, has now ratified that position. Both in briefing and at oral argument, House counsel represented to this court that the House interprets its rules to require ‘a religious invocation.’”

While it seems like it should be common sense and common courtesy, it seems sense and courtesy are not so common at militantly anti-theist organizations — including those that claim this is unlawful prejudice.

The ruling bodes well for those who would claim the US military requires an atheist chaplain to fully serve the “religious” needs of its troops.