Earlier this month, atheist Joseph Richardson delivered an invocation in front of the Polk County (Florida) Board of Commissioners… but only after Commissioner Bill Braswell assured the public there wouldn’t be “any pigs blood or a goat’s head” involved. Had the commission rejected Richardson, simply because he was an atheist, they could’ve faced a lawsuit and they would’ve lost.
Not everyone is happy with the decision to allow Richardson to speak, though.
In a letter to The Ledger, a newspaper in Polk County, a woman named Carol Stephens says the commissioners should be punished in the next election for allowing an atheist to speak at all.
[Atheists] do not have any message that is consistent with any quality of spiritual life in Polk County regardless of one’s religious affiliation. Whichever county official granted permission for this fiasco should be summarily fired, because it sets the legal precedence for other factions to demand equal time, with monetary consequences should they be denied.
You can hear Richardson’s invocation right here, about 30 seconds into the video. Good luck finding anything offensive in it. What problem does Stephens have with it? I’m guessing she didn’t even bother listening to it. She just heard the word “atheist” and flipped out.
As for the legal precedence bit, the precedence has already been set by the Supreme Court. They said in 2014 that invocations were legal so long as they were open to all speakers regardless of their religious beliefs. If Polk County didn’t let Richardson speak on the basis of his atheism, they would’ve been violating the law. (And notice that Stephens is furious that other non-Christians might get to speak too because they’ll all want equal rights. The horror!)
The best part of her insane letter is the slippery slope she goes down as she talks about all the other groups that might now want a chance to speak:
Just wait for the next group — the Polk County Covenant of Witches, Louis Farrakhan’s group, the Nazis, or the KKK — to demand equal time, and then sue us for discrimination. Certainly this had to cross the mind(s) of someone “in charge” at the county.
Even for word salad, that’s a lot of bullshit. The county can easily block hate speech during an invocation; what they can’t do is discriminate on the basis of religion. (The “Covenant of Witches” would be fine.)
Then, Stephens goes after Braswell for his “pigs blood” comment… but only because he said an atheist would be permitted to speak if animal sacrifice wasn’t involved.
… And where is the brain of Commissioner Bill Braswell, who said, “as long as there isn’t any pigs blood or a goat’s head, I think we’ll be OK.” Really? Regretfully, I contributed to this campaign, along with several others whom I thought to be of sound mind at the time.
When this is the sort of argument a local Christian is making to block atheists from speaking, it’s all the more reason to end the practice altogether. Christians like her fully understand invocations are a loophole allowing them to preach at government meetings, and they’re furious when government officials allow non-Christians to join in the practice. Better to just get down to business instead of playing favorites with God.
(Thanks to @anastas2002 for the link)