Congress Sued for Barring Atheist From Delivering Invocation

May 6, 2016

By Bryna Godar

A Wisconsin group that advocates for the separation of church and state sued Congress on Thursday after its co-president was barred from giving an opening invocation before the U.S. House.

The lawsuit alleges that House Chaplain Patrick Conroy rejected an application from Dan Barker, co-president of the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, to deliver a secular guest invocation in January. The foundation says Conroy wrote that Barker, an atheist and former Christian pastor, wasn’t a true “minister of the gospel.”

The suit argues that Conroy violated Barker’s constitutional rights and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and that Conroy’s requirements disparately burden nonreligious and minority groups. The suit notes that nearly 97 percent of invocations given to the House over the past 15 years were delivered by a Christian chaplain or guest Christian chaplain.

The U.S. House Chaplain’s office directed inquiries about the lawsuit to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office, where a spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a call and email seeking comment. Barker had secured sponsorship to deliver an invocation from Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington on the National Day of Prayer, an annual day of observance initiated in 1952 that the foundation unsuccessfully tried to strike down in a 2008 lawsuit.

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One comment on “Congress Sued for Barring Atheist From Delivering Invocation”

  • House Chaplain Patrick Conroy’s action . . . will likely create a media opportunity . . . for Atheists and Secular organizations to, hopefully, educate the greater public . . . and maybe even, as Barker writes, “. . . invoke the “spirit” of the founding patriot Thomas Paine, a non Christian deist who argued for Common Sense over dogma” (Wing 2016).

    Wing, Nick. “Atheists Sue Congress After House Chaplain Rejects Secular Guest Invocation.” Huffpost Politics., Inc., 6 May 2016. Web. 8 May 2016.

    Did I practice the correct form with the citation? The quote is from Barker’s censored speech found in Wing’s news article. I’m relatively new to the internet format used to reference or cite sources, and I see numerous formats. What is your preferred method for referencing web material?

    One problem I anticipate, and haven’t yet resolved, when citing a web url, is that often a web url can be very long, with lots of characters strung together in a single stream, with no spaces. A long url address can spill over to the next line on the page. Various styles, of citation and referencing, have standards of format, so if a url spills over to the next line, and the writer is following a particular style format, how will the reader understand that the break between the upper and lower line does not infer a break (space between characters) in the url address?

    In the early days of the web, one of my college professors advocated for the following form. (1)

    Cite or References
    1. (Retrieved date url)

    Date of retrieval can be very useful, such as to use the web archive machine if the cited web page has been changed or is off-line.

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