Brevard County (FL) Commissioners Unanimously Vote to Block Atheists from Giving Invocations at Meetings

A few days ago, we learned that the Brevard County Commissioners in Florida (below) were going to limit their invocations to “faith-based” groups — and the Central Florida Freethought Community could only speak during the “Public Comments” portion of the evening.

Yesterday, during the Commission’s regular meeting, several people were there to speak out against the illegal policy.

For what it’s worth, they haven’t received an official invocation “rejection letter,” but as the video below makes clear, that letter will be coming soon. Once it’s in the atheists’ hands, only then would it be prudent to pursue a legal challenge.

1:20: David Williamson, the CFFC’s founder, spoke first and focused on how the Commission was relegating atheists to second-class status. He shared with the Commission his group’s growing collection of invocations given across the country.

4:50: Joseph Richardson spoke next and compared the Commission’s treatment of atheists to the treatment of other minority groups throughout our country’s history. He also called the Commission’s draft rejection letter “offensive, discriminatory, and illegal.”

8:04: David Kearns, who’s running for the Florida State House, made the case for the importance of church/state separation. He added that Christianity wasn’t really under attack and that the Commission’s stance seemed to create a de facto religion for the county, which would be illegal.

After his official statement was done, Commissioner Trudie Infantini argued with him over his comment that only certain faiths would be invited to speak. He rebutted by asking whether Wiccans, Pagans, or Pastafarians would be allowed to give invocations. There was no response to that point.

Another Commissioner, Andy Anderson, wrongly argued that atheists opposed, say, Catholics delivering an invocation because it meant the county was establishing Catholicism as an official religion. That’s obviously not true since the atheists were there only to ask for inclusivity in the invocation rotation. The same Commissioner also claimed Christianity *was* under attack because… Iraq. (Which is totally the same thing as what’s happening in Florida.)

15:11: Dave Goshorn quoted Bible scholar Bart Ehrman, John F. Kennedy, and even the Bible to make the point of how important church/state separation is and why prayer shouldn’t be a public display.

18:12: Carol Buchert spoke in support of the Commission, saying this was a Christian nation and suggesting that atheists had no business delivering invocations.

After all that, Commissioner Anderson added that it made no sense to him how anyone could be offended by something they didn’t believe in and voiced his support of the draft letter. The others fell in line and voted unanimously (5-0), with the support of their attorney, to limit the atheists to speak only during the “Public Comments” section.

It seems very likely that a lawsuit will follow. How is this not a clear-cut case of religious discrimination?

As I said before, first the Commission needs to send the official rejection letter. They might as well just attach a check to the atheists’ lawyers now.

(Thanks to Brian 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.


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