For a couple of weeks now, atheist activist Justin Scott has been encouraging the Waverly City Council in Iowa to adopt a more inclusive invocation policy. It’s not merely a suggestion, either. Right now, Mayor Charles D. Infelt opens meetings with a Christian prayer and no one else has the opportunity to give their own — something that a court would almost certainly find illegal if push came to shove.
Two weeks ago, when Justin spoke to the council, Infelt said atheists could “say your own quiet little, whatever, reflection you’d like” and, later, that atheists should “be tolerant of everyone who is” religious.
Last week, Infelt was more iffy about it all, suggesting that atheists might be able to deliver invocations in the future… but not really apologizing for past remarks or taking any concrete steps to address the issue.
That brings us to last night, when Justin spoke to them again. (If nothing else, how about that tenacity?!) At the 10:20 mark of the video below, you can see Infelt open up the floor to public comments and almost snicker as Justin comes to the podium, as if to say, Seriously? You again?
Justin asks the council if they’ve made any progress on the invocation issue, only to find out they’ve done nothing. Surprise, surprise. He then reads much of what I wrote two weeks ago, and lets the council know that a different city has approved an atheist invocation at their meetings. It’s not an issue for them.
Finally, he offers his help in drafting an invocation policy that would make everyone happy.
He’s doing everything he can to make this work and make sure the city is following the law. At this point, the only reason to ignore him is because the city council members are intent on breaking the law and promoting Christianity through the government. He’s given them enough of a warning. If this city doesn’t change what they’re doing, they need to be sued.
When will the council members do the right thing?
For what it’s worth, the activism may have worked. At the end of the video, one council member asks his colleagues to add an agenda item to next week’s meeting about the invocation policy. Justin told me he’ll follow up with an email just to be sure.