Atheist Delivers Invocation at Cobb County Board Meeting

When I think of Cobb County in Georgia, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that, in 2005, school officials put stickers inside the Biology textbooks that read, “evolution is only a theory.”

But now I can think of something more pleasant.

On Tuesday night, American Atheists President Ed Buckner delivered the invocation in front of the Board of Commissioners.

But first, the Board Chairman Sam Olens issued a disclaimer basically saying Buckner was only allowed to speak because the rules allowed anybody who signed up to be able to speak. (Read: Not because anyone wanted him there.)

During the speech, Buckner mentioned that church and state ought to be separate and implored the Cobb County board to do away with invocations altogether.

You can watch a video of the speech by clicking here.

Olens, of course, became all offended:

“Did I find his comments repugnant and insulting? Yes,” Olens said. “He abused the process by giving an opinion … rather than providing inspiration.”

Olens said the county received an E-mail from Buckner requesting to do an invocation, and allowed it because of First Amendment laws.

“Had I stopped him before he started, he then would’ve had a federal action against the county,” Olens said. “That’s the price you pay for being American.”

I’m not sure what is so inspirational about a talk by anyone who believes I’ll burn in hell for eternity because I don’t accept Jesus’ divinity — and says as much by invoking Jesus’ name.

And what’s with that last line: “That’s the price you pay for being American”?

I’ve used this line before, but you would never have heard that comment being made if a Jew or Hindu had delivered the invocation. It’s offensive and sadly under-reported.

What did Buckner say that inspired so much outrage?

Rather than any form of deity, [Buckner] invoked “the 700,000 people who live in this county — especially the majority (yes, over half) of those 700,000 who are not members of any church, mosque, temple, or other religious organization,” he said.

“I speak as well for those political leaders who despair that success in politics cannot be achieved without hypocritical piety from politicians and who would prefer to run for office and to govern based on competence and political philosophy rather than on beliefs, real or pretended, in any supernatural beings.”

“Join me in asking Cobb County to stop having invocations,” he said.

Again, you can watch the video here like I did.

I’d love to know why Ed’s speech was an “abuse” of the process. What he said was non-sectarian and could’ve been said by any religious leader as well.

By the way, immediately after Ed finished his speech, the Board members stood up to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (how’s that for irony?).

In the video, they focus on Ed during the “Under God” bit. He says something (maybe it’s not “Under God”?) but I can’t make out what it is.

(Thanks to Clayton for the link!)

  • Tyler in SoCal

    Hmm, I cant seem to get to the video. Tried both Opera and IE.

  • Sven

    Linky no worky in Firefox either.

    Consider
    http://CobbCo.ecstreams.com/CobbCoVOD/boc-07-28-2009.wmv

  • Sven

    I think he says “under People” during the pledge. I approve :)

  • Drew

    Link worked fine for me in Firefox, but I have GOM Player attached. Popped right up.

    As for what Ed said; no clue.

  • Chris

    Ed simply recites the original pledge and excises the words “under god”. You can see and hear him saying “indivisible” while the others say “under god”. He also finishes before anyone else.

  • Joe

    What a well-spoken and elegant speech. That is the way I want “New Atheists” to behave. Speak calmly, with low levels of sarcasm and condescension towards religion. He made his point very clearly. I hope the citizens of Cobb County heed his advice and wisdom.

  • Karun Rajasekharan

    I live in Cobb county – and wish I had heard about this before – I would definitely have attended and provided my support for Ed.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    ‘Twas a great speech. While Ed’s message didn’t really come off as an “invocation”, it didn’t appear as any kind of abuse of the process. When minorities get a platform to educate the masses, they need to take advantage of it.

    BTW, Chris is correct — Ed said the original Pledge. It’s amusing that they centered the camera on him for it.

  • Dr.Bruce

    When saying the pledge in a group, I think it makes sense to stick to the pre-McCarthyite words. For example, one could say the word “indivisible” twice, and thus stay in sync with the rest of the room.

    I think it would be effective in Georgia to quote Jesus where he is said to have said that one should not pray in public. If needed, one could then add that those who do pray in public are therefore anti-Christ. I don’t know if that would make them antichrists or make them “The Antichrist.” But perhaps it would be better not to say this, as it might offend some. Peace!

  • Tom

    That probably got insane ratings as far as public access TV goes.

  • http://mojoey.blogspot.com Mojoey

    No, not an abuse. Very reasonable actually.

  • L3D

    Yay, disclaimer stickers.
    http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/textbookdisclaimers/
    and we of course need this bible sticker too