Earlier this year, members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly (in Alaska) were thinking about getting rid of invocations at meetings… but they kept them and said anyone who wanted to give one could do so.
By August, a member of The Satanic Temple was delivering an invocation that included the line, “That which will not bend must break and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is done. Hail Satan.”
For some reason, that didn’t sit well with some of the Assembly members, so they voted 6-3 in favor of changing the rules. They didn’t eliminate the invocations, but they put in place new rules limiting speakers to members of “Assembly-approved religious association.”
As the new resolution spells out, those eligible to recite an invocation include religious associations “with an established presence in the Kenai Peninsula Borough that regularly meet for the primary purpose of sharing a religious perspective, or chaplains who may serve one or more of the fire departments, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, or other similar organizations in the borough.”
Saying that only members of “established” groups could give the invocations effectively shut out atheists, Satanists, and members of smaller religious groups that didn’t have money for a building or rental space. This was only a step away from saying only Christians could deliver the invocations, and it opened the Assembly up to a potential lawsuit.
That’s why, this week, the Assembly members changed the rules again. This time, they voted 5-4 to reverse their previous decision, which means invocations can once again be delivered by anyone… but even that’s not a done deal since one Assembly member wants to reconsider this sensible move.
Assembly member Blaine Gilman, former president of the body, asked for reconsideration of the amendment at the next meeting. That means the current policy — which says the person delivering an invocation has to represent a religious group approved by the Assembly and fit a certain set of rules — stays frozen in place for now.
In all, the Assembly has put forward six separate pieces of legislation regarding invocations this year.
It’s worth noting that an atheist actually delivered this week’s invocation. The Assembly’s President Kelly Cooper said it was okay because she “looked up ‘religion’ in the dictionary and found a definition she felt was broad enough to encompass atheism.”
Cooper must be using a definition of religion that says nothing about belief in a Supreme Being… which is a debate for another day. But given how much drama this issue has caused, wouldn’t it be more sensible to just drop the damn invocations, let people pray on their own time, and get to work?
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)