Equal Time ...to Invoke Indignant Anger
A fair number of governmental bodies have a minister say a prayer at the start of official meetings -- an invocation. When criticized by those who favor a true separation of church and state, they often insist that the invocation is not really religious. So what happens when an atheist is invited to give an invocation? The officials sit in respectful silence, as they would insist an atheist should do when a Christian preacher gives the invocation, right? Yeah, sure. From True's 8 August 2004 issue:
Weekly Weird News
Well By Golly
The City Council in Tampa, Fla., insisted having ministers say a prayer at their meetings was not an unconstitutional religious act, proudly noting that they even let Jews say the invocation from time to time. So Atheists of Florida chairman Ed Golly called their bluff: he offered to have someone from his group say the invocation. Councilman John Dingfelder agreed to let an atheist take a turn. But when Michael R. Harvey arrived to say the invocation as scheduled, Councilman Kevin White tried to deny him a chance to speak. "We have never had people of an atheist group represent Americans," he said, "and I don't think it is appropriate in this setting." White walked out with fellow members Mary Alvarez and Rose Ferlita. Alvarez had previously gone on record that she "looked forward" to hearing the atheist's invocation. "It's a free country," she said then. Alvarez was the only one to support White's censorship attempt, but they were overruled by other council members. (AP) ...Who better understand what living in "a free country" really means.
Quite a few readers, most particularly those who identified themselves as Christian, were interested to know what an atheist's invocation* would be like. Here's the text, according to the St. Petersburg Times:
*"Invocation" is not synonomous with "prayer". According to American Heritage, it is "The act or an instance of invoking, especially an appeal to a higher power for assistance" primarily. Secondarily: "A prayer or other formula used in invoking, as at the opening of a religious service" (emphasis added). Thirdly, it can be "The act of conjuring up a spirit by incantation, or an incantation used in conjuring." A brief secular speech certainly meets the dictionary definition of "invocation".
My Favorite Letter
My favorite letter in response to this story is from a Methodist Minister, the Rev. Billy of Texas, who writes:
How dare you! I have never been so appalled! I have never been so humiliated in all my life. To think that my fellow Christians would have to endure such harassment. Where is your sense of decency, man? How dare you throw such drivel in our face and remind us that as Christians the first thing we're called to do is love our neighbor as ourselves, be merciful and seek to be peacemakers. How dare you remind us that we are called to love our enemies because if we just love our friends and those who are like us, we're no different than the rest of the world.
True to his Word, Rev. Billy did upgrade to Premium.
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