Florida County Rejects Atheist Request to Deliver Invocation at Commission Meetings

BrevardBREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida county has rejected an atheist request to be added to the rotation of those who deliver the invocation at public meetings.

The Brevard County Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to deny the request of David Williamson of the Central Florida Freethought Community, who had sent correspondence to Chairman Mary Bolin Lewis asking that the group be added to the list. The county stated that Williamson’s group does not qualify for the invocation because it is defined as a “prayer presented by members of [the] faith community.”

“The prayer is delivered during the ceremonial portion of the county’s meeting, and typically invokes guidance for the County Commission from the highest spiritual authority, a higher authority which a substantial body of Brevard constituents believe to exist,” the response from the commissioners and the county attorney outlined. “The invocation is also meant to lend gravity to the occasion, to reflect values long part of the county’s heritage, and to acknowledge the place religion holds in the lives of many private citizens in Brevard County.”

Instead of seeking to utilize the prayer portion of the meeting, the county suggested that Williamson’s group speak during the public comment period.

But Williamson is disappointed by the decision and is now seeking legal counsel to possibly to take the matter to court.

“It’s a slap in the face to be told specifically, ‘You cannot participate,'” he told local television station WESH.

“It was very disappointing that the vote was 5-0,” he added to Florida Today. “Everyone can be treated equal, except when it comes to religion, it appears. What we were seeking is inclusion.”

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As previously reported, earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prayers presented primarily in the name of Jesus at public meetings are not problematic as long as they do not seek to proselytize. The case had centered on invocations that are offered at town hall meetings in Greece, New York, just outside of Rochester, which are presented in Jesus’ name more often than not since the town is largely comprised of Christian and Catholic churches.

“The town of Greece does not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports with our tradition,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote on behalf of the majority. “To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian would force the legislatures that sponsor prayers and the courts that are asked to decide these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech.”

But following the ruling, Dan Courtney of the Atheist Community of Rochester asked that he be allowed to present an invocation at an upcoming meeting, and was granted his request.

“We, as citizens, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega of our destiny are not, as the great philosopher Immanuel Kant warned, mere means to the ends of another, but we are ends in ourselves,” Courtney said during his invocation.

One lone objector stood outside holding a sign that simply read “Jesus saves.”

“Our country has a rich history in the public arena for calling on the help and guidance from God, the Almighty, the Supreme, the Maker,” the man, who remained anonymous, stated to reporters. “It’s only recently that rich history has come under attack by the atheist.”


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  • Mekisha

    Does Mr Atheist know that the root word of invocation is Invoke? Who or what does he plan to invoke?

  • katie

    He was right to make this request. He has this right to be included on government property, religious or not. It’s against the U.S. Constitution to deny him that. And I get it, some people on this website will show bias because it’s the CHRISTIAN news, but it doesn’t make him any less deserving – as his Constitutional right – to be included.

    • James Grimes

      Who said that he could not be on government property? I did not see that in the article. And, yes, this is a Christian site for Christians.

      • katie

        Nobody said he didn’t have the right to be on government property. Re-read what I said. He has every right for his lack of religion to be recognized just as much as those of faith do.

        • mreichard7

          Curious: Who would this atheist invoke? An invocation is a petition or supplication for help; an appeal to a Higher Power.
          My understanding is: to the atheist, there is nothing Higher than the Universe, or a cat.

          • Iron Head

            It’s not like he could use that invocation to call upon his fellow man or anything.

      • Iron Head

        I said he has the right to be INCLUDED on government property. He has the right to be REPRESENTED on government property. It’s a constitutional right.

  • Guest

    I hope a Muslim or a Satanist makes the same request, and if they’d better not be denied! Afterall, they meet the unfair conditions set forth by the commission. I really don’t understand why they can’t see how foolish their stance is… the way to alleviate all these problems also happens to be the only way in which the constitution is properly upheld…. remove the invocation from the meetings all together!!!

    Every place Christians fight to include prayer in a governmental setting, they need to be prepared to give the same right of prayer to a Muslim, a Jew, a Sikh, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Bahá’í, a Taoist, a Morman, a Unitarian, a Scientologist, a Wiccan, a Satanist, and of course, an atheist. If doing this doesn’t feel right to you, then maybe you should just follow the law and throw it all out entirely. It doesn’t belong there anyway.

  • Krauss Allie

    I hope a Muslim or a Satanist makes the same request, and they’d better not be denied! After all, they meet the unfair conditions set forth by the commission. I really don’t understand why they can’t see how foolish their stance is… the way to alleviate all these problems also happens to be the only way in which the constitution is properly upheld…. remove the invocation from the meetings all together!!!

    Every place Christians fight to include prayer in a governmental setting, they need to be prepared to give the same right of prayer to a Muslim, a Jew, a Sikh, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Bahá’í, a Taoist, a Morman, a Unitarian, a Scientologist, a Wiccan, a Satanist, and of course, an atheist. If doing this doesn’t feel right to you, then maybe you should just follow the law and throw it all out entirely. It doesn’t belong there anyway.

    • verheek

      The law does not overrule God. Sorry. The Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being. You must be crazy to think all these groups offer something constructive to the population and advancement of public meetings. Equality is not something to be grasped. It’s automatically there. Sometimes exclusion is good for the betterment of all.

  • verheek

    Stupid is as stupid does lol. Why an atheist would bother to try to be a faith group is odd. It’s like gays saying they should be allowed to marry. Neither fits the category but insists they be able to anyway. This is what happens when there are no absolutes in the moral world. Anything goes to the point of what the local populace will tolerate.