Nearly a year ago, we learned that the Brevard County Commissioners in Florida (below) had limited their invocations to “faith-based” groups — and the Central Florida Freethought Community could only speak during the “Public Comments” portion of the evening.
The Commissioners sent a rejection letter to CFFC and everything. At the time, the Anti-Defamation League sent a letter urging the Commissioners to reconsider:
The Commission’s decision to prohibit an atheist from delivering an invocation would most likely violate the standards set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Greece v. Galloway…
Although this decision significantly broadens the types of opening prayers at meetings of local legislative bodies, invocation practices are not without limitation. Indeed, the Court required that a legislative body must implement a non-discrimination policy with respect to prayer givers. This means that the person who gives an invocation or prayer — whether a public official, member of the clergy, or an ordinary citizen — cannot be denied the prayer opportunity based on his or her faith, including a minority religion or atheism.
This Board has no intention of violating the U.S. Supreme Court by following your flawed interpretation of the Court’s ruling in the Town of Greece case.
The Commission said in its letter that allowing the atheists to deliver an invocation would “show hostility toward the faith-based community,” because atheists, I guess, are all assholes. (I guess none of the Commissioners have bothered to look at the perfectly harmless invocations on the CFFC’s website.)
Yesterday, Brevard County Commissioner Curt Smith decided to throw atheists a bone… by saying the exact same problematic thing he’s been saying for a year now:
[Smith] says he wants to make it clear that representatives of atheist, agnostic and secular humanist groups are more than welcome to address commission meetings. Only not during the invocations at the start of the meeting.
That’s sweet of him. Do we get separate-but-equal bathrooms and water fountains, too?
This is ridiculous. The law has been very clear on this. If invocations are allowed at all, they must be open to any representative of any faith or no faith. You can’t exclude atheists on a whim.
But try telling that to Smith:
“The invocation is for worshipping the God that created us,” Smith said Monday. Atheist and agnostic[s] “are not going to take the place of the godly invocation. Absolutely not.“
A coalition of groups — including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the ACLU of Florida and the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief — sent Smith a letter back in May warning him of potential litigation if he kept this up… and he still doesn’t give a damn.
At tomorrow night’s meeting, Smith is planning to present a formal resolution written by County Attorney Scott Knox that will set his rhetoric in stone:
Knox contends in his report that “supplanting traditional ceremonial pre-meeting prayer” with an invocation by atheists or agnostics “could be viewed as county hostility toward monotheistic religions whose theology and principles currently represent the minority view in Brevard County.” Furthermore, “such action may be deemed to violate the Constitution of the state of Florida.”
(Since when the hell are religious people in the minority?!)
Allowing atheists the opportunity to be in the invocation rotation wouldn’t hurt anybody. In essence, Knox is claiming that treating atheists/Agnostics the same way as religious people would be hostile to religious people.
Christians may not like that, but the government has no business picking favorites.
A lawsuit is coming, make no mistake. And Brevard County taxpayers will lose. Smith could avoid it completely, but he wants to be a Christian Martyr. He doesn’t care how much money the County loses by trying to uphold an illegal policy.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)