When atheists protested a city council meeting in Hawaii earlier in the year, they came out on top — they were found “not guilty” of disorderly conduct in court.
Maybe that’s the inspiration for another city council protest that took place in Hartford, Connecticut last night.
Members of the Connecticut Valley Atheists plan to silently protest Monday night, by sitting instead of standing during the City Council meeting’s opening prayer.
The head of Connecticut Valley Atheists said the usual prayer before the council meeting violates the Constitution, and isn’t fair to people who don’t believe in any gods.
In a statement, president of the Connecticut Valley Atheists and the Connecticut State Director of American Atheists Dennis Paul Himes said, “There is an attitude much too prevalent in Connecticut that if all religions are covered by a policy then no one is left out. We will be there to remind the council that that is not true.”
The city council president, rJo Winch, doesn’t get why this is a big deal:
“I don’t think that they need to be able to impose their atheism on other people,” Winch said. “What about the other residents that think prayer should happen. So we do a combination of things. We welcome any religion to come in and do prayers. We even have days where we do moments of silence where there is no prayer. We try to be accommodating.”
Umm… the atheists aren’t “imposing” atheism. The “moment of silence” is not pro-atheist.
And who cares what the other residents think? Following the Constitution isn’t something you base on a popular vote.
So how did the protest go?
It went as planned but the effect was… barely noticeable:
Shortly before the prayer began, council President rJo Winch said people in the audience were free to sit, stand or kneel.
“I thought it was fine,” Winch said of the group’s attendance. “It was not disruptive. It had no effect on the council meeting or the prayer. People are free to exercise their constitutional rights.”
Amazing: In a matter of hours, Winch learned alllllllll about the Constitution…
She still doesn’t get it.
I hope the atheists protest again. But in a way that’s more effective. I don’t know if that means speaking out in protest like they did in Hawaii, or speaking out against the invocation prayer as a concerned citizen at the meeting, or holding up signs about church/state separation outside the meeting.
It’s true a watered-down prayer isn’t the biggest problem in the world right now. But in principle, it’s wrong, and it should stop. That’s why I hope we keep fighting these things where they happen.
Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Hartford has been involved in a controversy involving the invocation prayer. A couple months ago, they had a problem when locals decried a local Islamic imam giving the invocation.
This is such an easy problem to fix: Stop praying publicly and get down to work. That’s what the council members were elected to do in the first place.