Here’s what happens when an atheist offered Alabama’s first non-theist invocation to open a public meeting: 90 seconds of thoughtful statements that began with “Dearly Beloved” and ended with “Let it be so,” and no reaction from a packed City Council chamber. As the invocation ended, everyone swung automatically to face the flag to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance, with the atheists who had come going silent on the “under God” phrase.
Many people at the meeting listened to the invocation, delivered by Kelly McCauley, a member of the board of directors of the North Alabama Freethought Association, with heads bowed. It was not a “prayer,” McCauley said earlier this week, but an invocation of the highest values of Americans: wisdom, courage, moderation, with the added values added by the Enlightenment of the importance of diversity, protection of freedoms and constructing a society on egalitarian principles that protect the rights of all, especially minorities.
“Let doubt and skepticism be our lookouts,” McCauley said during his invocation, going on to quote Thomas Jefferson, “‘Truth is great and will prevail, if left to herself.'”
The idea of an atheist delivering the invocation received mixed reaction, but understanding, from leaders in Huntsville’s Christian community when it was announced earlier this week that an atheist would be delivering the invocation. The interest in this invocation comes soon after a reaction to the announcement, in July, that a Wiccan high priest would be delivering his second invocation to open the City Council meeting. In both instances, member of the City Council have remained firm in their determination to continue with spoken invocations – most of which, mirroring the demographics of Huntsville, will be given by Christian minister – that reflect the diversity of Huntsville’s population.
“The City Council wants an invocation as a way to set their intention to work for the greater good,” said Jeannie Robison, executive director of the Interfaith Mission Service and an ordained deacon of the Episcopal Church. IMS has been asked by the City Council and also the Madison County Commission to coordinate the rotating roster of those giving invocations with the charge to reflect the area’s demographics. “Huntsville is a very diverse city, and while Christianity is by far the largest, there are many other faith traditions, and the City Council wanted to let the voices of other faith and thought traditions be heard.”
There’s more at the link.
Check out the video of his remarks below.