Atheists Challenge Rowlett City Council Prayers

In 2010, the Rowlett City Council in Texas changed their prayer policy. They used to have Christian prayers, then the Freedom From Religion Foundation warned them of the repercussions of doing that, so the council opted to go with non-sectarian prayers.

As it turned out, though, since the town is predominantly Christian, those non-sectarian prayers have turned out to be almost all Christian prayers, anyway.

Now, local atheists are calling them out on it:

“How would they like it if they were forced to pray to Muhammad or Allah or Ganesha the Hindu God — any of the others out there, because that’s what they’re doing to us,” said [atheist Chad] Aldridge. “They just don’t see the error that they are oppressing a smaller minority in us the atheists, the Hindus, any Muslims or even Jews in this town that don’t believe in Christ’s divinity and don’t want it enforced on us at the meetings.”

The atheists say they will keep fighting for the change.

Meanwhile, a prayer vigil is scheduled to precede Tuesday’s 7 p.m. city council meeting at Rowlett City Hall.

“Just because there are more Christians in Rowlett, does not give them the right, in the United States, to leave others out,” said Terry McDonald from the Metroplex Atheists.

The atheists will accept a moment of silence, they say, but the city council says they’re not budging… because all the people who matter are Christian:

The established bodies of religion in Rowlett are Christians,” Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Michael Gallops. “There’s a Catholic church here, there are multiple denominations of churches but there aren’t any from other religions.

“There is no reason for us to change the policy, the policy is constitutional, the policy is neutral, it’s non-discriminatory we’re gonna stick with it,” said Gallops.

Can you believe it? The policy is non-discriminatory to everyone who’s in the majority! And it’s “neutral,” too, unless you’re someone excluded from the neutrality! Amazing!

Until any change happens, the atheists say they’ll keep raising the issue. Good — I hope they remain a thorn in the side of the local government. If they can’t differentiate between church and city, they’re in the wrong line of work.

(Thanks to Casey for the link)

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.

  • Rain

    …so the council opted to go with non-sectarian prayers.

    I’m very surprised they didn’t stick to their word on that. This is a shocking development. *faints*

    • A3Kr0n

      Who would have thought they would back-pedal like this? Amazing.

  • Edmond

    “There’s a Catholic church here, there are multiple denominations of churches…”

    Then go and pray THERE! City Hall is NOT a church! Why is that such a problem?

    • Chris B

      Because if you pray there, everyone won’t be witness to your piety and high moral standards! Duh!

      • TheBlackCat13

        Yeah, it isn’t like Jesus ever said that people should pray in private or anything.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Like I said in the other city council post: Christians are the only people that matter.

    At least this guy is open about it.

  • r.holmgren

    “[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human
    passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
    John Adams

    thesauros-store.blogspot.com

  • r.holmgren

    “[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human
    passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
    John Adams

    thesauros-store.blogspot.com

    • David Starner

      Ah, quote-mining. Saves you the trouble of actually having to make an argument. I fail to see how the difference between our systems and the parliamentary systems of Europe mean that Europe can survive without a religious people, though the bizarre conflation of religious and moral in that quote probably has something to do with it.

      I’ll note you left out some words; “Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net.” goes inbetween the first two sentences there, making it clear this wasn’t a speech in opposition to the First Amendment, instead being directed against immorality.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Message distortion involves selectively processing or understanding a persuasive message in a way that favors one’s original attitude (Cooper & Jahoda, 1947; Festinger, 1957; Kunda, 1990; Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979; Pomerantz, Chaiken, & Tordesillas, 1995). Social validation involves resisting the message by bringing to mind important others who share one’s original attitude (Festinger, 1950, 1954, 1957; Festinger, Gerard, Hymovitch, Kelley, & Raven, 1952).
        — (doi:10.1207/S15324834BASP2502_5)

    • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

      Right. Quote mine much? Here’s the full quote:

      “But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

      Here is the source: http://books.google.com/books?id=kI08AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA228#v=onepage&q&f=false

      Quite a bit more resilient than your blog source.

      • baal

        That’s quite a different light on the quote. Adams is commenting about the lack of a standing military (the U.S. didn’t start with one). Even if we grant that Adams thought the American people were religious and moral, that doesn’t speak to the government being an arm of the christian churches.

    • TheBlackCat13

      And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a Virgin Mary, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter…. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away [with] all this artificial scaffolding.

      -Thomas Jefferson

    • coyotenose

      “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example
      of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men
      are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice,
      imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event
      as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of
      the American governments is at present little known or regarded
      either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of
      curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in
      that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree
      under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or
      houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be
      acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use
      of reason and the senses.” – John Adams

      “Thirteen governments [of the original states]
      thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a
      pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over
      the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point
      gained in favor of the rights of mankind.” – John Adams

      “We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions … shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power … we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.” – John Adams

      “I have long been decided in opinion that a free government and the Roman Catholic religion can never exist together in any nation or country.” – John Adams

      “God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy [note: that blasphemy being the myth of Jesus being the Christ] is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.” – John Adams

      …wanna see some more? There are a lot more.

    • Syrupy goodness

      “I like waffles”

      - Bozo the Clown, backstage after a show

      Both statements have the same relevance to the law in this case, which is NONE.

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    So I guess in Texas non-sectarian just means “giving every sect a chance, but only if they’re big enough” rather than “not associated with any sect”.

  • rg57

    Rowlett is surely aware that a neutrally-written law is no defence against unconstitutional discrimination, particularly when the Deputy Mayor Pro Tem is now on record stating that the city is also aware that there are no non-Christian religious organizations in the city. I think he’s going to wish he hadn’t admitted that.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Is there evidence that other religions or an atheist has been turned down to give the invocation? Or is thus being assumed by those complaining? And who is forcing the atheist to pray to anyone? What exactly is the oppression? Is it because other people are praying around him so he is uncomfortable? Has the city passed laws after praying that oppress his atheist convictions? I doubt it. So where is the exclusion?

    • coyotenose

      You’ve already been caught being dishonest here dozens of times. Now you’re, as usual, deliberately ignoring large chunks of the post. Are you truly stupid enough to think you’re fooling anyone? You should probably go back to the echo chambers of Seminary where you picked up your apologetics. The real world is beyond your style of argumentation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tuesdaymorris Tuesday Morris

      They told us that atheism is not a religion, therefore has no place giving the prayer. They also said we are not “established” in Rowlett, but then refused to define what “established” means.

      • coyotenose

        Laminations?

        Sorry, I know what you meant, but the mental image is making me giggle.

    • PietPuk

      Robert, you know very well what the problem is.
      The attitude you are displaying only makes you seem more dishonest and delusional.

      • Holey Moses

        Not really possible. Ol’ Bobby thinks he is right ‘cuza the lord, so he can be as dishonest and such as long as he casts his magic spells each night….aka prayers….and gets the ol’ forgiveness of his big sky fairy with a beard. RWLaw is the classic example of why you can NEVER trust a christian.

        • PietPuk

          I know lots of christian I totaly trust.
          Whenever we discuss religion I usually stop when they run out of answers and excuses. I let them figure the rest out by themselfs.

          Concerning RW, I still have some hope he will one day penetrate his own bullshit and see the beauty of reality, and realize the world is the same without any gods.

    • baal

      For the sake of clarity, the problem is the establishment clause of the US Federal (and maybe even the relevant State’s) Constitution. A city council is not speaking for the various persons on the board. It is an organ of the government and speaking with the full authority of the government and we’d hope on behalf of all the people. When they government speaks, people listen. When the organ of the government speaks specifically christian prayers pretty much all the time, you get the idea that christians will be privileged and that the views of non-christians will be ignored. I’m sure if you were capable of empathy or had imagination, you could think what it’s like for a christian at the local shura in Saudi Arabia. That’s the oppression and that’s exactly what the founders wanted to avoid.

      You are an attorney Rwlawoffice, you know all this and yet you persist in pretending you don’t. I and others have also made the effort of replying to your repeated feigned ignorance so you have actual notice of the answer.

    • Chris B

      “Is there evidence that other religions or an atheist has been turned down to Or is thus being assumed by those complaining? give the invocation?”

      Why is any time spent on invocations, regardless of who is giving them? Couldn’t the time be better spent by getting down to business and discussing matters relevant to the citizens? I say skip the BS ceremony all together and get something done.

      “And who is forcing the atheist to pray to anyone? What exactly is the oppression?”

      All time spent praying is time wasted. Wasting time means wasting my tax payer dollars. The government has no business praying, ever.

      “Is it because other people are praying around him so he is uncomfortable? Has the city passed laws after praying that oppress his atheist convictions? I doubt it. So where is the exclusion?”

      When everyone else bows their head in prayer, people of other faiths and people of no faith, are forced to make a choice. They must endure a religious ritual against their wishes, or they must excuse themselves from the room. You can’t be much more excluded than that.

    • PietPuk

      PS: On the subject of evidence; Do you have any evidence of your god’s existence or that he/she/it created the universe?

    • Edmond

      Can these people not pray in their HEADS, or BEFORE city business begins? Why delay business with everyone’s personal rituals? Why force everyone who is present to sit and listen to these rituals?

      These people have NOT been hired or elected to be spiritual leaders for anyone. That is not the purpose of their offices. Invocations are not necessary, and serve no purpose in their civic duties. City Hall is not a church.

  • PietPuk

    I am confused by the christian ‘argument’ of “If you don’t like it, why don’t you move”.
    If those christians don’t like the constitution, why don’t they move themselfs?

  • Texas Sucks Butt

    Once again….the south….or the epitome of ignorance/hatred/stupidity….yessireee TEXAS.

    Texas, now with 78-percent MORE intolerance and 86-percent more guns! Texas, the family state…..

    • http://www.facebook.com/bill.zeblinsky Bill Zeblinsky

      We’re not unique in these United States. Look for the red-colored states on the last presidential election electoral vote map. I’m not saying I’m happy about that (I’m not), but picking on my state by saying we’re somehow an aberration in matters of American politics misses the larger picture.

      • LoneStar

        I’ll take my tongue out of my cheek and respectfully say that you are factually wrong. I understand your geo-centric love, but factually, Texas and its politics have routinely shown themselves to be among the worst in the nation. Add in the fact Texas School Board decisions effect every public school’s choices of textbooks in the nation and it adds up to a horrific state of intolerance, hatred, ignorance and bigotry.

        Are there exceptions within the state? Of course. But Texas, as it stands and historically, is horrible.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004875811594 Mark Aimee

          And living in Texas is a horrible experience. We are still trying to get out. Our children have just started the K and 1st grades. We have to get the out as soon as we can cause the education is a scary nightmare, along with a ton of other problems. Look at the presidents that have come from Texas and what it did to our country. You are so right it has been historically and still stands horrible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/a.villarreal3 Armando Villarreal III

    “The established bodies of religion in Rowlett are Christians,” Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Michael Gallops. “There’s a Catholic church here, there are multiple denominations of churches but there aren’t any from other religions.”

    Mr. Gallops has forgotten that Christians to not see Catholics as Christinas and that there was something called the Protestant Reformation.


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