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GREECE, N.Y. — Quoting philosopher Immanuel Kant and drawing on the words of the Declaration of Independence, Dan Courtney made history before the Greece Town Board.

Courtney, past president of the Free Thinkers of Upstate New York, delivered the first atheist invocation at a town board meeting Tuesday, following a May Supreme Court decision that said this Rochester, N.Y., suburb's practice of allowing sectarian prayer was permissible as long as the town didn't discriminate.

Noting the Declaration of Independence's assertion that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," Courtney said this central premise of the Founding Fathers "is today, more than ever, under assault. This central pillar of free society; this notion that is deeply heretical to authoritarian culture, proclaims that it is from the people that moral authority is derived."

He urged the officials on the dais 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 the founders of American government.

MAY: Supreme Court upholds prayer at government meetings
NOVEMBER: New York town's prayers test church-state separation

And with that, Town Supervisor Bill Reilich thanked Courtney for his speech and the Town Board moved on with its business — although initial efforts to hold a moment of silence in memory of Deputy Supervisor Jerry Helfer, who died Sunday at age 48, were interrupted because some of the audience departed.

Outside on the Town Hall lawn, dozens of free thinkers, atheists, non-religious people, supportive believers and others gathered to decry the Supreme Court decision and pledge that they will hold the court and governments to the decision's edict against discrimination.

"There is prejudice based on the misguided belief that belief in God is the only path to morality," said Ronald Lindsay, president and chief executive of the Center for Inquiry. "And we need to overcome that prejudice."

He pointed out, and supporters' signs attested, that 1 in 5 Americans identifies as non-religious.

David Niose, with the American Humanist Association, said his group and others plan to "ensure secular Americans have a place at the table" by insisting on their rights to give invocations before meetings where local governments employ the practice.

"We will hold local governments and the Supreme Court to their word," said Greg Lipper, a lawyer with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the organization that represented Greece residents Linda Stephens and Susan Galloway in the lawsuit seeking to force change to the town's prayer practice. "We will ensure all Americans can appear before their government, not as members of a particular religion, but as citizens."

The invocation drew one protester who carried a "Jesus Saves" sign and said he felt compelled to come but not compelled enough to identify himself.

Others wore their sentiments on their shirts, as did Lisa Gleason of Greece, whose T-shirt said "I'm an atheist because ... I have read it," on the front and "1 Corinthians 14:34 | Women should remain silent in the Churches" on the back.

SEPTEMBER: U.S. to argue in N.Y. town's prayer at meetings case
MARCH 2013: Supreme Court will rule on prayer at government meetings

Gleason said she attended the meeting because it was exciting to see history made in her own town.

"I think this will spur people across the country to push harder," she said.

Courtney said that is the plan.

"We are not going to be invisible anymore," he said of non-believers, humanists, atheists and free thinkers. "We will stand at podiums, we will deliver invocations and we will be heard."

A first at a town meeting since the Supreme Court permitted prayer before meetings, an atheist gave an invocation July 15, 2014, in Greece, N.Y. Donyelle Davis, Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

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