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Atheist invocations? Not in this county.

Atheist invocations? Not in this county.

The County Commission in Brevard County, Florida, this week voted unanimously to prohibit atheists from offering invocations at public meetings.

According to this report, God’s representatives in the county voted to send a letter to David Williamson, founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community, indicating that his group doesn’t qualify to deliver the invocation because it is defined as:

An opening prayer, presented by members of our faith community.

It added:

The prayer is delivered during the ceremonial portion of the county’s meeting, and typically invokes guidance for the County Commission from the highest spiritual authority, a higher authority which a substantial body of Brevard constituents believe to exist.

The invocation is also meant to lend gravity to the occasion, to reflect values long part of the county’s heritage, and to acknowledge the place religion holds in the lives of many private citizens in Brevard County.

County resident Joseph Richardson noted during Tuesday’s meeting that if a government activity requires the exclusion of

Atheists, humanists, or any segment of your population, no matter how small, from full participation in government activities — if any government activity requires such an exclusion, then that activity is patently unfair, unequal, unconstitutional, and should no longer be a part of the government.

He went on to compare the exclusion of atheists by comparing the commission’s decision to relegate atheist statement to a “Public Comment” session at the conclusion of meetings to pre-Civil Rights era separate-but-equal statutes.

David Kearns, a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, followed by noting that the commission’s decision to only allows religious groups to offer invocations could have unintended consequences.

You could have the Spaghetti Monster people here. You’re going to have the Wicca here. You’re throwing down the gauntlet against people who might not believe precisely as you do.

After the meeting, Williamson told Florida Today that he would consult with legal experts about how to proceed.

10 responses to “Atheist invocations? Not in this county.”

  1. The standard that the government of Broward is required to follow has been been made crystal clear by the US Supreme Court: freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed to EVERY U.S. citizen–not just those who share a faith with a “substantial body” of Broward County residents.

    Broward county will be sued, and they will they will lose–as any competent attorney could have told them, and probably did.

    I respect the right of politicians to pander to their voters, but this board’s religious grandstanding will cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees and even more in punitive damages for violating their constituent’s constitutional rights.

    What is needed is a law that makes government officials personally financially responsible when they cause taxpayers to become embroiled in un-winnable lawsuits.

  2. Stephen Mynett says:

    “The invocation is also meant to lend gravity to the occasion”

    Great quote from the religionists, I can really see how it adds gravity to the occasion, appealing to bronze-age myths seems a perfect way to try to solve 21st century problems.

  3. AgentCormac says:

    What is needed is a law that makes government officials personally financially responsible when they cause taxpayers to become embroiled in un-winnable lawsuits.

    Hear, hear.

  4. Paul Cook says:

    I would suspect that a disgruntled ‘resident’ could sue these people and perhaps win, and obtain damages for loss of taxes by litigating against them for acting acting ultra vires – namely beyond their powers.

    They are elected to act within their powers, importantly making a statement that immediately prohibits numbers of their electorate marginalises everyone but a christian, and is likely an act that is not for the people, it is an act for a section of the people. I would suspect that this sector partitioning, purposefully, is discriminatory and is ultra vires – and beyond their powers.

  5. Trevor Blake says:

    Although it is difficult to choose just one, I might pick Judges 11:29-39 as my magic spell – sorry, I mean religious invocation. A man promises God he will sacrifice the next thing that comes through his door, his daughter comes through the door, and he kills her. Thus God is pleased, again, through human sacrifice. No word if he stabbed her or set her on fire, but there are examples of both in the Bible so either should be fine.

    Because religion is good and atheism has no good thing to say. No comments on art or beauty, no idea about civic duties or respect, no concept of rights or justice. For those you need magic spells.

  6. Broga says:

    Notice that these religious clowns insist, without analysis or discussion, that their incredible beliefs are true and the views of atheists are not only untrue but not worth considering. You see this nearer home, of course, with the BBC and TfTD and its religious coverage.

    Just on TfTD: an acknowledgement. I thought for a long time that TfTD was so bad that it couldn’t get worse. I admit it. I was wrong. It is worse but it is entertaining if you enjoy listening to people sending themselves up without realising it. I have wondered recently whether the NSS has placed some agent provocateurs in TfTD. If so, they need to tone it down slightly because the nonsense is becoming too obvious.

  7. Stephen Mynett says:

    Trevor, one of my favourite bands, The Residents, did an album about Bible stories, this is the song about the Judges story, lovely stuff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33nprGaStS8

  8. Vanity Unfair says:

    This type of story occurs with dispiriting regularity. Don’t American legislators read their own constitution? I agree that it could be clearer, but the first amendment does state,
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
    Their actions are clearly in contravention to the first two clauses. They really ought to know that without having it pointed out.

  9. Matt Westwood says:

    I miss TFTD.

    The company I work for moved its offices 25 miles down the road closer to where I live, so I no longer have to leave the house at 07:45 or so. Getting to work half an hour earlier is not really worth the loss of an extra half hour at home doing the intellectually stimulating first-thing-in-the-morning stuff that I delight in.

  10. Robster says:

    “The invocation is also meant to lend gravity to the occasion”. Ha! Got ’em there: gravity is only a theory.