An Alabama man offered the first non-theistic invocation at a Huntsville, Alabama city council meeting on Thursday. Contrary to conservative suspicions, no portal to Hell opened. The Rapture did not come. No one died. It was actually a rather pleasant gathering.
Kelly McCauley, a board member of the North Alabama Free Thought Association, gave the following invocation — which was, in spite of conservatives’ desire to believe that atheists are simply people who hate God, entirely bereft of hatred:
Dearly Beloved,When the ancients considered the values that were proper and necessary for the good governance of a peaceful, productive society, they brought to our minds the virtues of Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Moderation. These values have stood the test of time.In more recent days, an American style of governance has led to approbation for newer enlightened values; we celebrate diversity, we enjoy protections of our freedoms in a Constitutional Republic, and we dearly value egalitarianism – equal protection of the law.So now let us commence the affairs that are presented to our community. Let Doubt and Skepticism and Inquiry be on our lookout when caution is the appropriate course. But also let innovation and boldness take point when opportunities for excellence appear on our horizon.In this solemn discourse, let’s remember Jefferson’s words: “…that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”Let it be so.
“The city council wants an invocation as a way to set their intention to work for the greater good,” said Jeannie Robison, the group’s executive director. “Huntsville is a very diverse city, and while Christianity is by far the largest, there are many other faith traditions, and the city council wanted to let the voices of other faith and thought traditions be heard.”
Some Christian leaders are upset that a nonbeliever delivered the invocation.
“If the council believes it has sufficient wisdom and needs not the blessing or help of God, it has the right to omit an invocation,” said John Buhler, a leader of a coalition of evangelical Christian congregations in Huntsville, said. “My frustration is the folly across the nation that assumes that for an invocation to be Constitutional requires representation of all possible whomevers and whatever or lack thereof. Quite to the contrary, the only boundary, according to the Constitution, is that ‘Congress’ shall make no ‘law’ respecting an ‘establishment’ of religion.”
“For me, the bigger issue, here and across the land, is whether what has led to this is really the Council’s choice, or if they have been forced to do this by some who say this is what’s required to be Constitutional.”
However, some Christians are all for the inclusiveness. Rev. Jana Williams, a minister of family spirituality for Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, explained:
“As a Baptist minister –Baptists value the separation of church and state – praying at an official governmental meeting is not truly Baptist,” Williams said after delivering an invocation for the Madison County Commission meeting on Wednesday. “But when I was asked, I’m happy to pray a blessing over the commission and to add maybe a little reminder to take care of the disadvantaged and not just to cater to the powerful. But I don’t think prayers should ever be a weapon or be used to coerce or condemn others in any way. That’s why I added a statement for atheists before the prayer.”
“My hope is that we can all work together to make Huntsville a more inclusive community, where no one is left behind,” she said.
Watch the invocation, below: