On Thursday, atheist Joseph Richardson spoke during a meeting of the Winter Garden City Commission in Florida as part of his effort to deliver a secular invocation.
He’s been trying to do this for years… with no luck. (Another atheist delivered an invocation in Winter Garden once, in 2015, but the commissioner who invited him won’t invite Richardson for some reason.)
The reason I mention this is because of what happened at the end of his speech:
In the last few seconds of that video, just after Richardson finishes his plea to include secular voices in the invocation rotation, a woman in the audience yells out “Fake news!”
No one on the commission reprimanded that woman.
No one even said anything against it. They just asked if anyone else wanted to make a public comment.
Richardson shared his frustration on Facebook:
… I think this vignette fairly captures the contempt that Mayor Rees has for me and for all non-theists who live in Winter Garden. His unwillingness to call for order or remind the public of the rules of decorum in this situation speaks volumes.
I have no doubt that if anyone else were heckled for their views by other audience members in a public commission meeting, there would have been no hesitation from the mayor in dressing down the offender.
He added in an email to me:
The mayor’s inaction is simply indefensible. I have done my best to work within the system and to behave respectfully. For him to allow this flouting of decorum and disrespect of me in a public meeting is a disgrace and merits an apology.
It’s a disappointing situation and another sign of how far we’ve sunk as a country. A patriotic atheist wants to deliver an invocation, asks permission for years, and gets nowhere. But a heckler in the audience can shout a nasty comment in his direction, and the city commission is perfectly okay with it.
What pathetic people these commissioners are.