In Tampa, Florida, the City Council conducts pre-meeting prayers.
Not surprisingly, atheists are not happy about this and they want to see the practice stopped. (I’m not sure where non-Christians are, but they have a right to be mad, too. Hell, so do Christians who support church/state separation.)
But there’s a right way and a wrong way to persuade people that your argument against the prayers is a good one.
… Curry took the floor, saying that roughly 10 percent of the population considers themselves atheists, and requiring people to rise and pray before government meetings discriminates against them.
“Please consider protecting atheists from discrimination, starting with something that is easy to fix, quick and harms no one. Simply replace the invocation, which is divisive, with a moment of silence or reflection,” Curry said. “We’re not against prayer, we’re against the entanglement of religion and government.”
His remarks were met with applause and [Council Chairman Tom] Scott banged the gavel again.
“There will be no clapping,” he said.
So what’s the wrong way to make your case? Let’s listen to John Kieffer, president of Atheists of Florida:
John Kieffer, president of Atheists of Florida, said since council members didn’t seem to understand the points he made two weeks ago, he would try to put it in “more simple and generic terms.”
“Believe it or not, there are people who believe in invisible aliens,” he said. “Believers usually talk to these aliens mentally and silently, but sometimes in a standing ritual.”
People who don’t believe in the aliens and decline to rise, he said, stand out like a “ketchup stain on a white shirt.”
“When you do the invisible alien standing ritual at your meetings, I don’t know what to do. You see, I’m not a believer in invisible aliens,” he said. “What should I do? Lie to fit in, or be the hated ketchup stain.”
For some reason, the article doesn’t mention a round of applause after that one.
C’mon… you have to know your audience.
You have to know they’re not going to be receptive to being called followers of invisible aliens. I’m sure it was funny in Kieffer’s head, but it was stupid to say in practice. And it only hurts your case.
To the supporters of the prayer, the city government — any level of government, really — is not the place to worship your… um… invisible alien. They have other buildings for that sort of thing.
Let’s just keep public religion (and atheism) out of the political process. There are far better issues to be debating in those chambers.