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South Dakota City Council Meeting to Open With Atheist Invocation for the First Time

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By Michael Gryboski , Christian Post Reporter
August 5, 2014|8:20 am
Carnegie Town Hall (Photo: siouxfalls.org)

The exterior of Carnegie Town Hall, the meeting place for Sioux Falls City Council of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

An atheist is scheduled to give a secular invocation for the beginning of a council meeting in a South Dakota city.

Amanda Novotny, president of the Siouxland Freethinkers, will give the invocation Tuesday evening at the Sioux Falls City Council meeting.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Novotny explained that the inspiration for doing the invocation came courtesy of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision Town of Greece v. Galloway.

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled five to four that a city council can allow for sectarian prayers or invocations at their public meetings.

"Following the Supreme Court ruling, I contacted the city office to find out more information about how one would go about giving an opening to a city council meeting," said Novotny.

"It was simply a matter of scheduling, so we scheduled for the Aug. 5 date."

Regarding the content of the invocation, Novotny told CP that she planned to do "a humanistic, inclusive message to begin the meeting on a positive note."

In May, the highest court in the land ruled that the government of Greece, New York, could open its monthly town council meetings with Christian prayers.

Justice Anthony Kennedy authored the majority opinion, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas concurring.

Dissenting from the majority opinion were Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"The Court must decide whether the town of Greece, New York, imposes an impermissible establishment of religion by opening its monthly board meetings with a prayer. It must be concluded … that no violation of the Constitution has been shown," read the Kennedy opinion.

A key point in the successful defense of the Greece prayer policy was that non-Christians have always been allowed to give invocations.

In keeping with this reasoning, some initially opposed to the Greece v. Galloway decision have called upon non-Christians and especially non-theists to request participation in public meeting invocations.

Dean Karsky, Sioux Falls City Council member and chair, told CP that for his city "the ability to give the invocation is open to any person that requests to do so."

Karsky also told CP that to his knowledge this was the first time an atheist was giving an invocation at a Sioux Falls council meeting.

Novotny agreed with this sentiment of her possibly being the first, though she also told CP that "there have been other openings that have been void of religious connotations."

 

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