Atheists Confront School Board For Illegal Prayers

- Sermons, Praying and Threats Ensue (Video Evidence Included) (Updated)

GCsign“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” – First Amendment”

Greencastle, PA – The Greencastle-Antrim School Board apparently has a problem with the United States Constitution. Mr. Ernest Perce V, acting initially as the Pennsylvania State Director for American Atheists, Inc. and a long-time (and s0metimes controversial) activist in Pennsylvania, had received multiple complaints about inappropriate prayers being recited at school board meetings. In fact, Mr. Perce had personally attended one of these meetings to verify these complaints. He had personally witnessed the recital of The Lord’s Prayer” by the Board. The prayer had been recited after the meeting had already convened. As well, not only did the Board invoke the prayer,

But they led it, as well…

In a letter to the Greencastle-Antrim School Board, Mr. Perce asked the School Board to keep their sectarian prayers to non-official times. Here is a link to the PDF file of the letter.

Mr. Perce’s request that they exercise their religious freedoms without encroaching the Constitution went summarily ignored. Mr. Perce returned with Mr. Carl Silverman, who was representing the Pennsylvania Non-Believers. Mr. Silverman and Mr. Perce addressed the Board regarding the issue, explaining the details of the problem. Ironically, this was done after the board recited the prayer. The entirety of the event was captured on video, and you can see there was no animosity, no anger, just an explanation of what the Constitution says, and the possible ramifications against the School Board if the prayers continue.

Video Number One…

Meeting in the Name of Jesus


The School Board, once again, ignored the request to cease and desist with their illegal praying at a municipal meeting. However, it was required that the issue be brought up at the next meeting. The support for the continuation of the sectarian prayers at the meeting was overwhelming. The room was packed with people, and judging from the series of prayers and sermons that ensued, it became obvious that the atmosphere was getting increasingly hostile to Perce and Silverman. As well, the responses by the members of the community were evidence of a wide-spread ignorance of the law, as well as support for the continued bigotry and discrimination against anyone who is not a member of the Christian religion.

To make matters worse, before the meeting took place, Mr. Perce was addressed by several individuals whose comments can only be interpreted as threats of physical violence. The following video begins with several threats to Mr. Perce, and continues with a series of sermons and prayers before the decision is rendered. What you are about to see is disturbing.

Video Number Two…

Antrim School District decision on Sectarian Prayer


Here’s a video consisting of ABC News27’s coverage of the story. Their commentary is at the beginning, then a clip from the first video I posted above. The commentary from the news broadcast continues at the 6:00 mark.

Video Number Three…

Greencastle-Antrim School Board Prays The Lords Prayer


Final Thoughts…

The idea that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation pervades a majority of the US Citizenry. This is largely due to ignorance. The United States has never been a Christian nation, nor was it founded on Christian or Biblical principles. The founding fathers were not all Christians, either. What you have witnessed in this small town is indicative of a much larger problem, and it is why those of us who function as activists remain on the front lines.

We are, and must, remain – at all costs – a free nation. Anne Gaylor, Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation points out:

There can be no religious freedom  without the freedom to dissent.

As Americans, we must continue to uphold the principles of individual freedom that our country was founded upon.  As Atheists, we must work against the real enemies of the state, those who would see our great Nation transformed into a Theocracy. Our secular laws are based on the secular humanist principle of “justice for all” and they provide protection  against crimes that our secular government enforces through a secular  criminal justice system.

The religious fanatics are  ignoring history, law and fairness in their efforts to turn America into the Christian nation that it never was – and it is very apparent from the video you watched, as well as the plethora of news stories, personal accounts and historical records, that there are many who would choose to use physical violence in the name of their god.

The fact is, fundamentalist Christians would like nothing more than to deny the constitutional freedoms that are guaranteed to all Americans, including non-Christian religious minorities and unbelievers. What they refuse to acknowledge is that history shows that only  harm comes of uniting church and state.

UPDATE 09/12/2012 – 1245 hrs

Carl Silverman, of Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, contacted me with the following:

“After noticing prayer listed on the internet agenda for the school board, I was the one who initially attended a Greencastle board meeting and witnessed the prayer firsthand. I had lived near that area for many years and was familiar with the religious reputation of the community.

After talking to local residents at a Pennsylvania Nonbelievers booth at a local festival, and by email from those who were unhappy with the prayers, but were too fearful to get involved, Ernest, Brian Fields, and I went to a later meeting and told the Board about the problem.

At this latest meeting, with the 200-300 Christians present, they wouldn’t allow Ernest or I (Brian didn’t attend) to comment, since we aren’t residents there. This is legal under Pennsylvania law, so we just observed and recorded.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has taken the lead in this issue. American Atheists, Inc., is no longer involved. Pennsylvania Nonbelievers does not have a legal staff, and we appreciate all that FFRF has done on this issue”


SPECIAL NOTICE: I have changed Twitter accounts, as I am looking to disengage from the United Atheist handle. I am now using my @Stefanelli account. If you are following me on Twitter, please go to @stefanelli and start following me there. I really appreciate all of you. 🙂


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  44 comments for “Atheists Confront School Board For Illegal Prayers

  1. September 12, 2012 at 10:50 am

    So, are they going to take the Board to court?
    I do hope so.

  2. embraceyourinnercrone
    September 12, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I just don’t understand these people (the school board members who insist on including prayers in their meetings). Why does a school board meeting merit a prayer? Chances are that not everyone in the school district or even on the board is a Christian ( and they can call it a nonsectarian prayer all they want to, it’s not ) I find it exhausting that these fights have to happen over and over and over and so many people are still apparently clueless.

    I also love the “I can’t beat everyone over the head with my religion where ever and when ever I want! WAAHHH I am being oppressed!” attitude when their violation of the Establishment clause is brought the their attention.

    Now I have to go google what happened in the case of the 5 foot tall Ten Commandments in from of the Pennsylvania public school…or maybe not because my blood pressure doesn’t need that today..

  3. michaelthomas
    September 12, 2012 at 11:54 am

    My main question is: Why do they continue to ignore precedence when it comes to the law? This issue has been through the court system enough times that their own lawyers should advise them against even attempting a fight. But just as christians like to interpret the bible to their liking, they also want to interpret the law the same way.

  4. September 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Dood, that made my brain hurt sooo bad…

  5. September 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    How can they be in the wrong?

    In their minds, Jesus is always in the right. Therefore, by aligning themselves with Jesus, they are automatically in the right. Laws that say contrary are clearly wrong, and their God will provide.

    …And that’s why that sort of thinking is dangerous.

    • sqlrob
      September 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      Even by that logic, they’re in the wrong. “Render unto Caesar”. Caesar says “no prayer in government”

  6. N. Nescio
    September 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    I hope their prayers for money to afford the inevitable legal ruling against them get answered.

    • Pope Bandar bin Turtle
      September 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      I hope their prayers for money to afford the inevitable legal ruling against them don’t get answered.

      Sorry, I’m not as charitable as you!

      • watry
        September 12, 2012 at 11:27 pm

        The kids lose too, though, because that’s less money actually going toward their education. I hope the school decides not to go to court, because a good education is probably the only chance some of those kids have.

      • Brad
        September 13, 2012 at 3:35 am

        No, no! We should hope some asshat donates the money to this bullshit instead of whatever terrible antisocial destination their money would have otherwise had. In attempting to defend illegal prayer, at least that money wouldn’t be funding anti-gay propaganda or electing republicans.

  7. fredbloggs
    September 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Just be grateful that you have legal recourse in the US (unlike the UK). We all know where this is going. They’ll either:

    1. Back down as soon as they see there is real opposition
    2. Puff up their chests, fight it for a while, incur moderate legal costs, then back down
    3. Fight it hard, knowing they’ll lose, incur huge legal costs, ultimately lose, but think of Jebus, dying nailed to the cross, and mentally compare themselves to him.

  8. Groske
    September 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I’m pretty sure some of those board members don’t want to pray but won’t say a word because they are afraid for their positions. I’ve seen it many times, where people who open their mouths and state that they are not Christian all of the sudden have to deal with plenty of shit in their direction from their boss. This is why prayers should not be allowed, you are creating a super awkward situations for many.

  9. September 12, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I think the question that needs to be asked is: What the fuck is it with school boards in general? Can they REALLY not know about all the cases that are lost every year on this matter. Do they REALLY not know that?

  10. yupperdoodles
    September 12, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    atleast most of the people are old.. they’ll be gone soon!

  11. otrame
    September 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    The best part is that this sort of public praying is exactly what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6:5-6.

  12. September 13, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Its time we start loving one another … Antidote to Atheism is Catholicism. It is evident a lot of Fundamentalism led to Atheism. Welcome to the Global Changes.


    Dearest Brethren in Christ / Atheist

    As we all have come to the full knowledge of Jesus Christ, God become man, we shall witness the New Order in the World evolving gradually and trying to eradicate RELIGION and the meaning of Spiritual Life.

    This is because of the reason that there had been too many conflicts in the World as an effect of a person practicing his or her belief in very different and specific ways. Thus Religion Vs States would be the ultimate Battle for Supremacy , Power and Regime on Earth.

    Are we ready to have the Spiritual Side of ourselves neglected by the forces in the World?

    Each Church however has their own way and Charisma of fighting the Good Fight of Faith or defending his or her religion of beliefs. This Spiritual Warfare happens in our thoughts, in the Spiritual Heavens, in the Battle of our Minds as well, as we all try to follow the Ideology or Concept that we all think suits Mankind Best in our own version. Th at is why there is a conflict of thoughts.

    As Christians, We are All ONE in the Body of Christ, we are of many parts with different functions, for God’s Glory to be fulfilled in the end. We have a common enemy, the Spirit of Antichrist, or Satan. Many have believed in Jesus Christ, but sadly, many of our religious have fallen down as well due to this Battle in their Minds constantly being attacked by the Evil Forces.

    You are invited to a Worldwide International Forum regarding Our Faith where we have to run to win. The Good Fight of Faith. We have to understand where we all are coming from, to disperse any negative ideas, but come to sound judgement as we all are made in the image and likeness of God.

    There are currently 33,000 different churches registered in the world today and also so many of them are already legalizing abortion and same sex marriages as being a normal way of life.

    Support our Moral Beliefs today against the Modern Trends tomorrow and continue to being the Salt and the Light of the Earth, lets continue the Good Fight.

    Many Countries that have brought us the Christian message have gone numb already because of an Atheistic and Secular Government voted in place, Governments where one promotes that God does not Exist or does not need to exist.

    We hear the Cry of the Spirit:

    2 Timothy 4

    1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
    5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
    6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

    Click Join to Join: God Bless You and your Family as we all discover the Social and Religious Life on Planet Earth.

    • N. Nescio
      September 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      It’s nice you felt entitled to post quotes from a book you like.

      • Johnny Mortel
        September 14, 2012 at 9:22 am

        N. Nescio says:

        September 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

        It’s nice you felt entitled to post quotes from a book you like.

        * Where and how else can you get the Words of Eternal Life

        silomowbray says:

        September 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm

        1 Opus 9
        Lo. I am ruptured

        * Who else is prophesied to fight against the beast?

        Corvus illustris says:

        September 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm

        Antidote to Atheism is Catholicism.

        Psst! I don’t mean to make you look bad in front of all these people, but you got it backward

        * Of course the Word of God is a mirror to our Souls.

        Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says:

        September 14, 2012 at 1:22 am

        You’re in the wrong place if you’re looking to convert anyone to Catholicism

        * It is too late to be converting . MAN has accepted with full knowledge who and what they stand in life. It is time to point out the Fullness of the Truth. Protestantism obviously led to liberalism which led fundamentalism to Atheism.

        fredbloggs says:

        September 14, 2012 at 3:38 am

        Catholicism? Ah yes, I remember, that reactionary, misogynist, child molesting priest protecting, mind controlling cult, which interferes in world politics, forbids people to use birth control (even when it protects them from a lethal infection), and is rich beyond measure.

        I’m sure it’s all just as Jesus intended

        * Man has the Problem of Evil, even Atheists can’t get rid of tendencies like the UK Riots in a highly civilized secular society like London. So the Problem of evil or Original Sin remains. Not so with a Rock, founded by Jesus Christ who gave his Authority to her and not even the evils of Judaism, Islam, Muslim,And Christianity or the evils within or without the Catholic Church, or gates of hell shall prevail God Bless you

        • September 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

          Potter 16:7

          You look troubled, young Potter,” said Nick, folding a transparent letter as he spoke and tucking it inside his doublet.

          “So do you,” said Harry.

          “Ah,” Nearly Headless Nick waved an elegant hand, “a matter of no importance. . . . It’s not as though I really wanted to join. . . . Thought I’d apply, but apparently I ‘don’t fulfill requirements’ -“

    • silomowbray
      September 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      1 Opus 9
      Lo. I am ruptured.

    • Corvus illustris
      September 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      Antidote to Atheism is Catholicism.

      Psst! I don’t mean to make you look bad in front of all these people, but you got it backward.

    • Tony •King of the Hellmouth•
      September 14, 2012 at 1:22 am

      You’re in the wrong place if you’re looking to convert anyone to Catholicism.

    • fredbloggs
      September 14, 2012 at 3:38 am

      Catholicism? Ah yes, I remember, that reactionary, misogynist, child molesting priest protecting, mind controlling cult, which interferes in world politics, forbids people to use birth control (even when it protects them from a lethal infection), and is rich beyond measure.

      I’m sure it’s all just as Jebus intended.

    • truthspeaker
      September 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      It’s always funny to find a Catholic who thinks Catholicism is any less ridiculous than fundamentalist Protestant Christianity.

    • satanaugustine
      September 17, 2012 at 1:08 am

      Sorry, Johnny, but atheism is actually the antidote to Catholicism. I’m a Catholic turned atheist. I have a number of atheist friends who were raised Catholic as well.

      And some Fundamentalist Protestant loon protesting the Reason Rally told me that Catholicism leads to atheism, so it must be true, right?

  13. grumpyoldfart
    September 13, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Video two at the 1:25 mark. One of the most courageous Christians in the world. So brave he was even thinking of pushing over a guy with a cane.

  14. timberwoof
    September 13, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Groske, can I go all Godwin on you and point out that what you’re asking these Americans to do is exactly what Americans ask dissenting Germans to have done before and during WWII?

    That points to an interesting debate strategy. At such a meeting, point out that among the people praying publicly at government meetings, there are probably many who feel very uncomfortable about it, but are chiming in only because they feel threatened over what would happen if they didn’t.

  15. greg1466
    September 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    I can never seem to wrap my mind around the fact that all of this anger, hatred and fuss is about nothing more than that they were simply asked to not have the reciting of they’re magic spell as part of the official proceedings of a government body.

  16. John Dale
    September 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Wow – that was a real eye-opener.

    We have issues with the occasional god-botherer over here (in the UK), but I really cannot begin to comprehend what it must be like to live in a community where so many people are so proud of being so ignorant. My sympathies are with everyone that does.

    • fredbloggs
      September 14, 2012 at 3:44 am

      Americans have a recourse to this nonsense in their constitution. We have no such protection. See the recent debacle with Bideford council.

  17. silomowbray
    September 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    greg1446 @ 15

    Then perhaps I can help. The hatred and fuss comes from the xtians seeing a threat to their value system. We wrap a great deal of our own identities around our values. Values are generally unexamined, because once you adopt them the assumption is that they’re Good. And if those values are working out for you, it just piles on the reasons as to why you wouldn’t want them to be threatened with change.

    This is a vicious fight over culture and values between mega-tribes, and all of them are in the pit fighting tooth and nail. Imagine if it were a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, who stepped up to complain, arguing that the lack of Judaic/Islamic/Hindu prayer was marginalizing them. They’d be shown the door and told in no uncertain terms that the U.S. is a Christian Nation and you can bloody well go back to where you came from if you don’t like it you [bigoted expletive]. Atheists just get flack for not wanting any government sanctioned prayer, which might be seen as even worse.

    • greg1466
      September 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm


      It was really kind of a rhetorical statement. Yes, I understand everything you said. Doesn’t make it any less asinine.

      • silomowbray
        September 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm

        Sorry greg, I missed the sarcasm. I can be pedantic at times. You’re right about how the behaviour is asinine, but human beings aren’t generally inclined to think about that sort of thing rationally.

  18. jakc
    September 13, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    The claim of the US being a Christian nation isn’t simply from ignorance; it’s out of necessity. How else can a US Christian conservative claim to be more patriotic than liberal atheists while still claiming to revere Jesus above all?

  19. Lucy
    September 14, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Sharing my thoughts:

    Don’t be proud of your talent, be grateful for what Jesus’ has given you.

    Don’t be jealous of the gifts other’s have from God.

    The devil is in a love/hate relationship with Jesus. Don’t be like the devil.

    The devil loves the power of God to the point of trying to be God. God created the angels, they can not recreate themselves. The devil was jealous of the power of God and like a magnet he was forced out of heaven as his lust for power repelled him away.

    The fight continued then and the other powers in Heaven fought back this jealous, lustful force and locked the gates of Heaven to the devil. We should lock the gate to our soul too, to this lust and evil force.

    Originally the devil, as the angel of light, was in Heaven. Now the devil is the angel of darkness. Don’t let him cover you in darkness, call on God’s Son Jesus to be your light.

    The devil still has jealousy and lust for the power of heaven, so much that he knew when he tempted Eve to sin with power that he would actually get closer to the object of his love in Christ Jesus, not to honor Jesus. His focus was to continue his love/hate relationship. The devil does not like being without God, although he is so jealous and lustful he cannot get close to God in a saving way.

    So the devil had his way with the continued fight until the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Jesus buried this sin and rose above the jealousy and lust for us.

    We should not help the devil to unbury this lustful, jealous love/hate power, that would be useless because we are already forgiven. The devil doesn’t want us to know this. This foolishness is as if the devil gave Eve the apple to gain knowledge and power and now he wants to flip flop and tempt us to think we are not forgiven and that Jesus did not have the power to forgive us now or then.

    To the devil’s tempts in us we say, I have been forgiven, I know this from the power of Jesus who fought you and won. You, devil, have no power over me, now or ever. You poor devil, I am rich with Christ’s Divine Mercy.

    If you have doubt or temptation and are weakening your relationship with the Body of Christ, go to personaChristi, and he will understand and assure you that you are forgiven and help you to strengthen your relationship through reconciliation with the Body of Christ.


    • silomowbray
      September 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm


    • loreo
      September 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      “The devil was jealous of the power of God and like a magnet he was forced out of heaven as his lust for power repelled him away.”

      Fuckin’ magnets! THAT’S how they work!

      • satanaugustine
        September 17, 2012 at 1:14 am

        + 1 Billion!

  20. September 15, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    I wonder if there should be concerted efforts to get school boards to add to their mission statements that they operate under the law of the land and to their policies that they will make no resolutions that break the law or undermine the Constitution of the U.S. and that any decisions contrary to law will be null and void. Then when these issues come up, you can just point to the policies and point out that they just can’t do that.

  21. September 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    What’s with all the bible-thumpers and god-botherers? I had to switch back to Firefox just so I could killfile them.

  22. September 15, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    I think some of the commenters above are correct–this is a result of Christians treating the Constitution as they treat the Bible–with introspection. They ask themselves what does God think, which is what any right-thinking person would think, which is what THEY think. Then they translate that back into their interpretation of the text, no matter what it actually means, and are sure they are right. Because God is on their side. Q.E.D.

    The idea that they might be wrong never enters their pointy little heads.

  23. thenaturalist
    September 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I’m frustrated with the language and approach of the atheists here. Lets be clear to the general population: rather then using the “prayer” lets say “Christian prayer”, let’s ask them how they would feel if the prayer was to a different deity, let’s ask if we can offer a prayer, then make it to a different deity.

  24. September 27, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    corbin martinez

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