The Port Huron City Council (Michigan) used to have a pre-meeting prayer that anyone could lead. The fact that they had a prayer to lead off meetings is itself a problem… but it’s not the issue at hand.
Khalil “Casey” Chaudry, a member of the City Council, is an atheist. He wanted to lead one of the invocations… and he was denied.
Mayor Brian Moeller previously had denied Chaudry’s request to lead the prayer because, according to Moeller, Chaudry wanted to use the time to protest.
“Mr. Mayor, you have no right to deny me the right to perform the invocation,” Chaudry said at the Feb. 11 meeting.
Moeller bit back.
“I am not going to have a protest done at the invocation.”
So now the rules may be changing a bit. If a new proposal is passed:
Aside from requiring the person leading the prayer be from a recognized church, the change would remove the invocation from the meeting agenda. Instead, it will be offered before the technical beginning of the meeting. No minister will be able to offer the invocation more than three times a year, and a letter will be sent to “all the churches in the Yellow Book,” Moeller said.
Additionally, the mayor will ask, not tell, those wishing to participate to stand and bow their heads.
The changes aren’t to appease nonbelievers. Instead, they will “protect us from any possible lawsuit,” councilman Mark Byrne said.
So the prayer would still go on, but technically, it would begin before the meeting.
Also, atheists would still be denied being able to give the invocation.
If Monday’s ordinance change succeeds, unless Chaudry founds a church and builds a congregation, he likely never will deliver the prayer, despite having been legally ordained.
Sounds like discrimination to me.
And how sad (and pathetic) that a city council wouldn’t want to involve all members of the community in something ceremonial like this… they’re going out of their way to prevent an atheist from speaking.
At least Chaudry seems tenacious:
[Councilman Mark] Byrne, a libertarian, said he has tried to see both sides of the issue and thinks if the resolution does get passed, it would be fair to all parties.
But he isn’t too sure it would stop Chaudry.
“Mr. Chaudry is determined enough,” Byrne said. “He’d probably go through all the hoops we create.”
[tags]atheist, atheism, Nicholas Deshais[/tags]