Just as I was getting ready to post about how an atheist’s invocation in Florida was followed up by a government official’s “corrective” Christian invocation, it happened again.
When the Board of County Commissioners in Polk County, Florida met this morning, the invocation was delivered by Sarah Ray, the co-founder of the Atheist Community of Polk County. You can see on the agenda that after Ray is scheduled to speak, the Commission is supposed to go straight to the Pledge of Allegiance.
Instead, after her invocation, there was another “corrective” prayer, specifically to Jesus, delivered by Chairman Rick Wilson.
RAY: Thank you Commissioners, County staff. And good morning.
We come here to do the business of county government — a deliberative body close to the people. As we gather, we are reminded that in our differences there is great strength. We do not all think the same way or believe the same things. Yet we are linked by our common humanity and our shared origin. When we work together to move our community forward in a spirit of mutual respect and common decency, we showcase what is best about our County.
We embrace many traditions. We are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Humanists, atheists, agnostics, unaffiliated, uncertain, and so many others. We are straight, gay, and transgender. We are young, old, and everything in between. We represent dozens of ethnicities and nationalities. We run the gamut from conservative to liberal, many a blend of both. I would be remiss, of course, to mention that on this Star Wars Day — May the 4th be with you — that many would argue strongly instead for Star Trek.
To be sure, we do not agree about everything. And we often feel fiercely protective of what we do believe. There is great passion in our beliefs — and rightly so. But there is one thing on which we all agree: We share the goal of making Polk County — our County — the best place it can be. And we unite here today around that noble aim and common purpose.
WILSON: Would everyone please stand and bow your heads? Father God, thank you for this day and for Your mercy and grace. We ask You for Your guidance and blessings on this meeting and our county. In Jesus’ name, amen.
What was the point of that? Why was everyone told to bow their heads for a Christian prayer at a government meeting? Why did Ray’s invocation require a Christian correction? Why do these people have invocations at all if they can’t handle ones delivered by people outside their faith? And what was so wrong with anything Ray said that it needed a theological rebuttal at all?!
This is appalling behavior and it shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone. If the government can’t treat invocation speakers equally, the practice needs to be eliminated entirely.
Just last August, by the way, Ray gave a similarly innocuous invocation in another county. Two members of the council walked out in order to avoid hearing her secular affirmation. That’s their right, but again, what would the reaction be if government officials walked out on a pastor giving a Christian prayer?