Earlier this month, the Sioux Falls city council showed the world what an atheist invocation looks like; open, inclusive, non-discriminatory and not based on a particular religion. Today, much to nobody’s surprise, we learned that right-wing Christians don’t like that.
The county commission in Brevard County, Florida, voted unanimously on Wednesday to block atheists from offering invocations at public meetings, since they define invocation as “an opening prayer, presented by members of our faith community.”
In a letter, which was addressed to David Williamson, the founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community, the commission indicated that his group didn’t qualify to deliver the invocation and that:
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.
Because nothing lends gravity like a prayer to an imaginary friend.
As was noted during the meeting on Tuesday by resident Joesph Richardson that if a government activity requires the exclusive of any group, then the “activity is unfair, unequal, and unconstitutional.” Which is fine, since that’s just how the right-wing Christians want it: unfair, unequal, and unconstitutional. And they’ll go to the ends of the Earth to justify it.
Richardson went on, comparing the exclusion of atheist to pre-Civil Rights era separate-but-equal status. David Kearns, a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, also took the floor, pointing out that the decision to only allow religious groups the right to an invocation could have unintended consequences: “You could have the Spaghetti Monster people here,” he said. “You’re going to have the Wicca here. You’re throwing down the gauntlet against people who might not believe precisely as you do.”
In response, the commission asked Kearns where he’d heard that only specific groups of faiths would be allowed to offer invocations, and when Kearns responded “the newspaper,” Commissioner Trudie Infantini said, “you may want to do other research than the paper, I’m just going to throw that out there. Because sometimes I’ve found it to be a little bit less than accurate.”
Commissioner Infantini then offered up a very clear and concise statement, expressing perfectly how the conservative mind works: “My staff and I, we search — I don’t have any specific religion in mind, we will go anywhere. Wait — not anywhere. No, not anywhere.”
Following the meeting, Williamson said that he would be consulting legal experts about how to proceed with the case.
You can watch the debate below: