“As far as I know, I’ll be the first to offer a secular invocation,” said Dan Nerren…
He said several atheist groups have been petitioning the council for several years to halt sectarian prayers without success, but the council did agree to allow an invocation by a nontheist group.
“I’ll be invoking the council, not a deity,” he said.
Even though it’d be better if the invocation was stopped altogether, this is a smart move on the part of the city council:
Bill Dusenberry, vice president of the Northeast Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said allowing an atheist to offer the invocation was “a very good move on the part of the council. It shows a willingness to accommodate diversity.”
“It’s better than nothing. The best would be not having prayer at all. It’s just pandering to the tyranny of the majority,” he said.
“Our goal is to have them stop completely the practice of having prayer as a formal part of the public meeting.”
The text of the invocation (PDF) is below. As you can see, it advocates the Humanist perspective without denigrating religion along the way. It’s something everybody ought to be able to agree with, as opposed to the religious invocations that necessarily exclude those who don’t believe in the chosen god.
Let us open our hearts to the welfare of all people in our community by respecting the inherent dignity and worth of each person, and realize our differences of race, religion, and party affiliation are merely superficial. Our common humanity unites us all, and may we recognize that through our interdependence we share a common fate.
In order to achieve the greatest good as citizens of Tulsa, it is important for us to maintain an open mind, and honor and respect the human rights of each other. We should consider the benefit provided by differing perspectives, and be willing to question assumptions that serve only to obstruct our path to progress.
Rather than bowing our heads and closing our eyes in deference, we should open our eyes widely to face the reality that confronts us, without losing sight of our ideals of what we could achieve.
Through the prudent use of reason and compassion we can ensure the success of this great city.
Lastly, we must remember that in the face of adversity we need not look above for answers, but instead recognize the proven potential within ourselves and in each other to overcome any challenges we face.
Congratulations to Dan on the honor; I hope they get the invocation on video 🙂