The City Commission in Casselberry, Florida has no idea what to do with prayer at meetings. For a while now, they’ve been giving the prayers — which is clearly illegal — and they have to come up with an alternative.
The right answer is: Don’t have them at all and get to work. But that’s not what they want and a discussion about what to do took up quite a bit of their meeting on November 9.
Atheist Joseph Richardson, who recently delivered a non-religious invocation in the city of Apopka, is paying attention to the issue and he told me the Central Florida Freethought Community already sent the commission a warning letter. (Maybe that’s what prompted this discussion in the first place.) And if you listen to their meeting, which Richardson just put online, you realize at least one of the commissioners has no idea what she’s doing.
Richardson was kind enough to timestamp/summarize the relevant parts of the meeting:
4:19: Commissioner Sandra Solomon expresses her support for a moment of silence as the most inclusive and cost-effective solution.
5:29: One of the commissioners finds the situation “very sad.”
6:40: Mayor Charlene Glancy concurs that it’s sad and calls the invocation an “age-old” tradition (as if that makes it right).
9:05: The Mayor says the “purpose of an invocation is to call out to a Higher Being.”
10:23: The Mayor wants to open the door to religions that “believe in a Higher Being” and continues on to say that “any kind of institution that essentially are just non-believers… is not necessarily an institution.”
13:30: In what seems to be a rebuke to atheists and Satanist, the Mayor says, “This is one of those things that… we don’t want, as far as anybody just being able to come in and offer a prayer.”
14:43: The Mayor says “The only exception [to giving an invocation] I would say there is just any non-religion, because if they don’t believe in anything, then I don’t think they would be on the list.”
21:32: Commissioner Solomon reiterates her support for the moment of silence even though she has a “very, very strong belief in God.” She calls out the mayor for advocating an “open door” policy that is actually restrictive and therefore not really an open door policy at all.
Ultimately, the commissioners tasked their attorney with looking into all the options and reporting back soon.
I’ll make it easy for them: They can have a moment of silence, they can allow citizens of any belief system to deliver invocations (including atheists, Satanists, Pagans, etc), or they can end the invocations altogether.
All they can’t do is give the prayers themselves or have a policy that limits invocations to only theists. Unfortunately, that’s currently one of the options on the table. They’d be setting themselves up for a lawsuit if they went through with that.
(Image via Facebook)