Despite Atheist Speaking Out Against It, County Officials Vote to Reinstate Prayer at Meetings

Boyle County Fiscal Court (in Kentucky) used to open meetings with a Christian invocation. After atheist Ricky Smith spoke out against it a couple of months ago, the county replaced that invocation with a moment of silence. For his efforts, Smith was rewarded with harassment by local Christians.

Ricky Smith (Stephanie Mojica – AM News)

Now, there’s an update to the story: Things are not better by any stretch of the imagination.

Last Tuesday, immediately before the official start of the meeting, Magistrate Phil Sammons led the group in prayer:

“Let me have everybody’s attention, please,” said Magistrate John Caywood just before the meeting. “At this time, I’d like to ask Magistrate Sammons to please lead us in prayer. Anybody who’s uncomfortable with this, we’ll give you a moment to step outside.”

Smith was the only audience member who stepped out of the courtroom.

“Our most gracious Heavenly Father, we come to you today with sad hearts,” Sammons said. “We’re so sad that we as a nation have let such a small minority group tell us what to do. Lord, I ask forgiveness for myself, but I’m of the old school where we don’t run, we fight. So, forgive me for that.

“Lord, we ask You to be with us always today … we just ask Your special blessing for this court, this good Christian bunch of people that are always trying to do the right thing for the county. We ask all this in Your Son’s precious name. Amen.”

Who knew a prayer offered by a politician could have such an angry undercurrent to it? Dear Lord, these atheists are so annoying when they ask for “equality” and “respect for the law” but please let us Christians get through this on top.

Then, the meeting officially began… with a moment of silence.

Smith — the one-man watchdog operation — was the first person to offer public comments and, as you might expect, they were respectful and civil:

“This has moved from a separation of church issue to a discrimination issue,” Smith said.

He said having to leave during a prayer “singles that person out” and makes people with differing beliefs into “second-class citizens.”

“By no way, shape or form should government ever, ever single out someone’s belief,” Smith said. “I don’t care if they’re down here at the sheriff’s office or the licensing department …

“This is not an attack on Christians as a lot of people are wanting to take this. This is asking for equality and respect for all people, for all cultures, for all religions … not just for any one group, but all people.”

The other public comments? Not so much:

“In a time when our economy’s in shambles … unemployment is high … and there’s a threat of terrorism and health issues dividing us, do we really want to say to God right now that ‘You’re not welcome,’” [Sam] Irvin said.

“I don’t think that we’re trying to push religion on anybody. I’m a Christian, and I don’t apologize for that.”

Riiiight. He’s not trying to push religion on anybody… other than forcing the local government to say Christian prayers at every meeting.

It’s the very definition of hypocrisy.

And he wasn’t done yet:

In conclusion, Irvin expressed his view that the United States was founded on Christian principles.

“If you’re a Muslim, I think you should be a good Muslim. If you’re a Catholic, you should be a good Catholic,” he said.

“If you’re a good Christian, you should be a good Christian and not go by the rules that the government set but go by the Bible and stand for your Lord Jesus Christ if you believe in Him.”

Other Christians made similar comments, too.

What more is the government looking for? They have an atheist with an understanding of the law who’s making sensible arguments against prayer at public meetings… and Christian after Christian offering awful advice.

So obviously, they went with the Christians and voted to eliminate the moment of silence in favor of a “non-denominational” prayer:

“I don’t agree with it 100 percent … but I will vote for it,” Sammons said regarding the motion to make the prayer non-denominational.

The group then voted 5-0 to have a “non-sectarian” prayer as part of the meeting agenda…

Smith says he’s going to file a lawsuit, and I hope he follows through with that. The public record is very clear that this is all just a ploy to push religion into the public square… and based on how they sound when they speak, these “non-denominational” prayers will inevitably skew Christian.

The Advocate-Messenger, a local paper, issued a scathing editorial against the magistrates’ decision this past Friday:

We think the court had it right the first time. We also regret that a body usually known for well-run meetings has been so distracted by deciding how to start them.

Our faith and our many local churches play vital roles in our community’s sprititual and civic life.

But county meetings are for conducting the business of every county resident regardless of faith. They are not for holding church.

It will be difficult to ensure the invocations don’t become thinly-veiled proselytizing — of the religious or political variety — let alone non-denominational. There is also the matter of whether holding a prayer seconds before the meeting starts in the location of the meeting is a distinction without a difference.

At least there are other intelligent people in the area who get it.

If only they were the ones in power.

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.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X