Mount Vernon Christians Are Complaining because the City Council’s Prayers Now Occur Two Minutes Earlier

The city council in Mount Vernon, Ohio just pissed off religious nuts in the region:

As the May 14 meeting drew to a close, four council members spoke against the change. Afterward, on the city hall steps, voices and questions were raised: Who complained? Who made the decision?

Why wasn’t prayer on the agenda anymore?

“I think it’s pathetic,” said local religious advocate Jeff Cline… “We keep kicking God out of everything.”

So what exactly did they do to “kick god” off the agenda?

They moved their pre-meeting prayer from 7:30p… to 7:28p.

That’s it.

And it happened because Ryan Kitko, a student from The Ohio State University, requested it:

Ryan Kitko

“We live in a diverse community of many faiths and non-faiths,” Kitko, an atheist, told the Mount Vernon News. “Having a prayer in any faith creates an atmosphere of exclusion.”

I’m sure the city council members believe their “generic” prayer is inclusive of everyone. What they don’t understand is how matters of god have no business in government meetings. Leave it to the local churches, the homes of local residents, and everywhere else where reality takes a backseat to superstition.

Kitko did the right thing in requesting that they remove the prayers and Council President Bruce Hawkins (at least in theory) honored the request by pushing up the prayer to when it’s not an official part of the agenda.

“The last thing we need in this community is division,” said Hawkins, who sought the advice of city Law Director Bill Smith before he made his decision. “The bottom line is, we want to make sure it’s legal.”

Even though the invocation is still being delivered, people aren’t happy with the time change:

“If one or two people want to change something that’s been done forever, I kind of a have a little problem with that,” [council member John] Fair said. “I don’t think one person has the authority to change what the majority of people feel.”

The public outcry and debate in Mount Vernon began less than 24 hours after the meeting ended. “ Prayer Shut Down at City Council Meetings?” someone posted on the anonymous online forum KnoxPages.com. “ONE person complained, and *poof* — prayer is no more.” The post garnered more than 70 responses.

“I frankly see this Ryan guy and [John] Freshwater as two sides of the same coin,” one user wrote. “ Intolerant and divisive.”

Already, there’s a plan to reinstate the invocation. If the city council is smart, they’ll reject it. I’m not holding out much hope.

(via Religion Clause)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1662432506 Jonas Green

    “If one or two people want to change something that’s been done forever, I kind of a have a little problem with that,” [council member John] Fair said. 
    Apply to Slavery, Women’s place subservient to men, heck why not the American Colonies under King George ?

  • Baby_Raptor

    It’s only intolerance when the Christians aren’t getting their way.

    • ModdKenwood

       yet it is you and ryan kitko who are the intolerant ones…you will not tolerate God or those who believe in Him…funny how a pipsqueak atheist who never attended a council meeting can feel empowered to tell them how to conduct their affairs…the tragedy is they capitulated

      • tbyte

        We are under no obligation to be tolerant of your attempts to force your religion into our lives.

      • Lambert Heenan

        Funny how someone you have never met can automatically deserve the ad hominem “pipsqueak” just because he supports the constitution. 

      • Baby_Raptor

        How is it intolerance to want the law followed?

        The Constitution very strictly states that the government is not allowed to show preference to any religion. 
        I have no ill will towards people who wish to believe in the Christian god, but thank you for claiming to know me. My supposed intolerance comes when they decide that personal belief isn’t enough, and that they should have to subject everyone else to what they decide is right. If not liking that is intolerance to you, then yeah. I’m intolerant. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

    ““I don’t think one person has the authority to change what the majority of people feel.””

    Nobody’s changing how others feel, and nobody can. They’re just asking that you stop forcing your religion on everyone.

    ““If one or two people want to change something that’s been done forever, I kind of a have a little problem with that,””

    Why is it when Christians want to justify imposing their religion on others they always resort to logical fallacies?  Is that all they have or do they just not know any better?

    • NickDB

      ““I don’t think one person has the authority to change what the majority of people feel.””

      I was always under the impression that’s what Jesus did?

  • http://twitter.com/charlesazorn charlesazorn

    Funny if they don’t take the 2 minute pre-agenda deal. If they insist on having in session, we can just have it stopped legally.

  • NinjaFang

    I hope they say “No we aren’t changing it”. Not cause of some secular  reason just for the simple fact to teach them(complainers) a lesson in common sense.   “You guys… are complaining… cause we moved the opening prayer, TWO! TWO Whole mins back from the start of the meetings.  And if we was to move it back into the start of the meetings? The county could be sued. 2 mins moved back… or being sued… 2 mins… sued… I think I’ll go with the NOT BEING SUED ONE.”

  • Suzy

    Mount Vernon is the home of John Freshwater, the science teacher who was fired for pushing religion and teaching creationism in his public middle school classroom.   He sued, lost, and is now on his 3rd appeal.  The Mount Vernon school district spent over $900K during the course of the 2-year hearing defending their decision to fire Freshwater. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Freshwater
    The last thing the city of Mount Vernon wants to do is get embroiled in another expensive legal battle.  Freshwater is now involved in this “no prayer at city council meetings” skirmish too.
    http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/12/05/15/council-prayer-sparks-controversy

  • Matto the Hun

    “If one or two people want to change something that’s been done forever, I kind of a have a little problem with that,” [council member John] Fair said. 

    So he would be in favor of changing the nation’s motto back to E Pluribus Unum and thereby removing “In God We Trust” and removing “One nation under God” and replacing that with “one nation indivisible”. Because that’s what people had been saying forever till this God stuff got crammed into it. He’ll totally be down with that right?

  • icecreamassassin

    ” “I think it’s pathetic,” said local religious advocate Jeff Cline… “We keep kicking God out of everything.” ”

    If god wants to be a part of something, he is free to speak up whenever he wants.  Why do religious advocates always treat god like an incapable, timid child?

  • http://cranialhyperossification.blogspot.com/ GDad

    “I don’t think one person has the authority to change what the majority of people feel.”

    Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did?

  • tolerant

    Funny how Christians are being labeled as “intolerant” yet it is the atheists who are intolerant of Christians.  If prayer bothers you, don’t pray.  Simple. 

    • ruth

      My guess is that you did not grow up where you were different from all the other kids.  You probably do not have the experience of being excluded, of not belonging, because of your religion.  I grew up in a small town of very conservative Christians.  I was from a non-Christian but moderately religious family.  People asked all the time in school whether people were saved and shunned you if you were not.    We had prayer in the classroom.  We didn’t have homework on Wednesday because it was church night (well, maybe it wasn’t all bad :)).  This was the state sanctioning Christianity.   After being harassed by fundamentalist Christians until I left high school it turns my stomach to hear public sanctioned prayer.  It is the reminder that I do not belong.   You were the folks that declared war on us.  I don’t tolerate it because a person does not need to tolerate exclusionary bigotry from our government.  

  • RupertPupkin

    “I’m sure the city council members believe their “generic” prayer is inclusive of everyone. What they don’t understand is how matters of god have no business in government meetings. Leave it to the local churches, the homes of local residents, and everywhere else where reality takes a backseat to superstition.”

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why so many atheists are considered dicks by so many people.   


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