Atheist Delivers Invocation to Grand Junction City Council January 8, 2011

Atheist Delivers Invocation to Grand Junction City Council

Joe Alaimo of the Western Colorado Atheists & Freethinkers gave the first-ever invocation by an atheist at the Grand Junction City Council (Colorado) recently.

You can always try to beat them at the game and have invocation prayers stop altogether, but if that’s not a likely option for you, then it’s not a bad idea to get your voice included in the mix.

Joe’s speech was fantastic — a transcript is below:

Public services are those that are soles essentials of modern lives that, for moral reasons, [are] considered fundamental human rights. It’s the day to day job of a public servant to provide those rights to as many as possible. The right to clean water and the right to live in dignity and peace are examples of these.

These services are not belief-based. They are the same for all men and women, all religions, and all walks of lives.

Sometimes, public servants, face ingratitude or hostility when they disagree with members of the public and that is unfortunate.

The served must never forget to be grateful for those who choose public service. One can disagree with a policy but one needs to do so with civility and with dignity so that we may share the greater goal of living together in a free society.

For their part, the public servant must never fail to respect the dignity of those with different opinions or beliefs. It would be easier to govern in a world with one mind but the price would be too great.

So today, I thank you, and the 16% of non-religious citizens thank you, for accepting an atheist to give what has historically been a religious invocation.

But there is one more thing I would ask: Many believers and non-believers alike dream of a day when the strength to take on the task of public service need not be found by bowing the head, closing the eyes, and praying for it. Instead, we hope for a day when whomever chooses to serve, in whatever capacity, can lift their head, open their eyes, and with compassion and reason find strength in the hands, hearts, and eyes of their brothers and sisters.

One day, perhaps today, we will have reached that greater goal.

Thank you.

No protests from the audience — and why would there be? That was a beautiful, inclusive speech. No god needed.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Dan

    That is a wonderful message! Anyone know how to make this happen with your local city council?

  • Librarian

    Thanks for posting this. What a wonderful message. I’m proud to be from Colorado.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    Fantastic, indeed!

  • Siobhan

    As a public servant who is, quite frankly, sick to death of being talked about by various members of the public as a mouth-breathing, lazy, do-nothing slacker (I’m not, I swear), this was refreshing, indeed.

    Thanks for posting it!

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    Those petulant fuckers in the background pissed me off. They acted like little kids, one had his arms tightly crossed, the other one made his dissatisfaction very clear. I would not have treated a Christian that way. I would have politely refused to bow my head and kept my eyes opened.

    They’re clearly upset that they don’t get a Christian prayer. “But MOMMY I DON’T WANT MOOSTRACKS, I WAN’T COOKIE DOUGH!!!”.

  • Miko

    @Siobhan:

    As Thoreau wrote in Civil Disobedience,
    “If [any] public officer asks me, as one has done, “But what shall I do?” my answer is, “If you really wish to do anything, resign your office.” When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished.”

    If you refuse to disassociate yourselves from our oppressors, don’t be surprised when we refuse to treat you with respect.

  • Makes me glad to be from Grand Junction. Nice job. 😀

  • As a public servant who is, quite frankly, sick to death of being talked about by various members of the public as a mouth-breathing, lazy, do-nothing slacker (I’m not, I swear), this was refreshing, indeed.

    Thanks for posting it!

    Not a civil servant myself, but I, too, am quite tired of hearing all the generic government-bashing. Everybody who has ever criticized the government in that bland, libertarian, generic sense seems to think that they’re the first ones to do it, and they think they’re so goddamned witty. “Fuck the government” is like the new go-to topic whenever somebody needs to look good by comparison.

    Not that I’m saying our gov’t is perfect, by any means, but it’s just such a cheap shot.

  • Frank

    I have to disagree, I find this speech misleading and counterproductive. The fact is that having an invocation is inherently discriminatory against the nonreligious. Inserting an atheist into the schedule does NOT change that. This city council is STILL discriminating against atheists. Our job is to make them see that. What this man has done is said to them that it is ok to have an invocation, that they can do it and be inclusive at the same time, and that is false and misleading. The time he spent writing that speech could have been spent so much better organizing a protest.

  • Tom

    Wow! Just… wow!

  • Dan W

    Awesome speech. Now if only people could get it into their heads that invocations are unnecessary…

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    Of all the comments Frank’s perspective is closest to my own.

    I don’t get it – this is like that other thing with atheists wanting to attend a prayer breakfast. Atheist prayers? What’s up with that? It’s a bit like people who never have and never will join the military – and furthermore who are pacifists opposed to military service on principle – giving speeches about the value of military service.

  • DA

    You know what? I find this as hackneyed and embarassing as when theists do it without us at the table. It’s a job and doesn’t need to start with an incantation, certainly not one paid for by tax money.

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    Non-litigious atheist-Its not a prayer, its a secular speech. Its a speech to set the mood without a magical overtone. I don’t really think there should be one at all, from any person, but this is what we got.

    Your analogy is void. It would be applicable if he opposed prayer on principle and delivered a speech on the merits of prayer. He did not do anything remotely close to this.

    As usual, you are using poor debate methods.

    As for Frank’s comment; I’m torn. I don’t think its right to say how other people should spend their time; organizing a protest is much more than just a matter of time, and perhaps he didn’t feel comfortable doing it.

    On the other hand, the speech is counter-productive because it basically condones the decision for inter-faith(or lack of) invocations.

  • Frank

    Danny Wuvs Kittens, I did not mean to suggest that Mr. Alaimo was under any obligation to organize a protest. I would not have blamed him at all if he had chosen to take no action with regard to the city council invocations. My point was simply that if one does want to devote ones time to addressing the problem there are other approaches that could have made a positive difference.