Earlier this year, the Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment only applied to Christians in its ruling on the town of Greece, New York’s unofficial policy of only allowing Christians to give the opening invocation at legislative meetings.
The Supreme court ruled that prayers that promote specific religions could be spoken in Greece’s city council meetings, allowing the city to continue its tradition of shoving the Bible down the throats of anyone who showed up to discuss the way the town is being run.
The city of Rowlett, TX is using this ruling to its advantage. Calling it an affirmation of its traditions, Rowlett, of course, allows Christian prayer at its meetings–but not much else. The city requires that those giving invocations to be licensed clergy members from established religions that meet in the city.
The Metroplex Atheists group is calling for change, however.
Randy Word, president of the Metroplex Atheists, told the Dallas Morning News, “We would still rather see no invocation at all in government meetings, but if they’re going to have them, we want to push for equal time.”
Metroplex Atheists Rowlett meets within the city and names two Rowlett residents as its directors. One of the directors is registered with the American Humanist Association to give secular invocations, but the city is not budging.
“This would be a serious invocation, though it would be a secular invocation,” said Metroplex Atheists president Randy Word. “You can still invoke things that are real in our natural world and solemnize the occasion, their human nature, sense of justice, logic.”
On behalf of the group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter giving city leaders ten business days to respond to a request to add two Rowlett members to its list of people who can give council meeting invocations.
“Specifically, we ask that you ensure that nonbelievers are given equal opportunity to deliver invocations at council meetings,” Sam Grover, an attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote to the City of Rowlett.
However, city Attorney David Berman said on Tuesday that Rowlett will likely not respond to the letter requesting equal treatment for nonbelievers.
“As long as I’m mayor, we are going to pray,” Mayor Todd Gottel said Wednesday.