Atheist Group Seeks to Give Invocation at Texas City Council Meeting

prayer hands

Correction Appended

An atheist organization has sent a request to a Texas city asking to give an invocation at their next council meeting.

In response to the recent Supreme Court decision Town of Greece vs. Galloway, which ruled that town meetings could be opened with sectarian prayers, Metroplex Atheists Rowlett have asked the Rowlett City Council to give the invocation prayer at their next meeting.

Randy Word, president of Metroplex Atheists, told The Christian Post that, while his group wanted sectarian prayers removed from public meetings, the Court's decision earlier this year "went against us in that regard."

"Atheists have always been made to feel like second-class citizens when a government meeting is opened with a Christian prayer. This action sets the stage up front for an atmosphere of an in-group, thereby leaving everyone else in the out-group," said Word.

"By allowing an atheist to deliver a secular invocation, it would at least give us the feeling that we are a part of the community and would demonstrate that the local government is indeed treating all their citizens equally and fairly."

Word also told CP that his group gave the Rowlett City Council 10 days to respond to their request, which "will be up by the end of this week."

"At this point, we are not sure what to expect. Rowlett accuses us of doing all of this for the publicity; but if we hadn't gone to the media, I'm certain we would never have heard anything back from them," said Word.

"It is only because of the publicity that we may get an answer to our request to have a local Rowlett resident deliver a secular invocation. That is a shame and frankly appalling that the city of Rowlett would not even reply to a request from their own citizens."

supreme court
Greg Scott of the Alliance Defending Freedom speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court after it heard arguments in the case of Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway, in Washington November 6, 2013. The Supreme Court today heard the case concerning public prayers before town meetings and whether it violates the Constitution. |

In May, the Supreme Court ruled that the Town of Greece's meetings could have sectarian invocation prayers offered at the start of the session.

Greece's prayer policy had been to select a given clergy in the area to give a prayer at their monthly meetings. While nearly every invocation was made by a Christian clergy, occasionally other faiths like a Wiccan priest have performed the prayer.

Recently Greece announced that an atheist from the town was going to give the invocation at the next public meeting.

Michael Gallops, Mayor Pro Tem of the city of Rowlett, told CP that the prayer policy for Rowlett was almost identical to Greece's, and had similarly come under attack from secular groups.

"The city of Rowlett has recently received another in a series of demands from the Freedom From Religion Foundation," said Gallops. "The recent demand from the Freedom From Religion Foundation misinterprets the Supreme Court's opinion. Rowlett's policy is valid and the city will continue to allow invocations at its council meetings in accordance with the U.S. Constitution."

Regarding Metroplex Atheists' request to give an invocation, Gallops noted that the group has long been a critic of Rowlett's prayer policy.

"This local atheist group has made several attempts to disrupt or interfere in our invocation process. Their initial demands were that we stop offering an invocation entirely. Their second request was to change the invocation to a 'moment of silence,'" said Gallops.

"Their third attempt was made to look like they were standing up for the rights of other faiths that have not offered invocations by stating that we were unfairly discriminating — they wanted those other groups to join with them in fighting against the invocation. This latest attempt is now a request to offer a secular or humanist invocation."

Gallops did not comment as to whether or not the Rowlett City Council will allow a member of Metroplex Atheists to give an invocation.

Correction: July 8, 2014

An article on July 7, 2014, stated that Michael Gallops, Mayor Pro Tem of the city of Rowlett, told CP that Rowlett's city council prayer policy was identical to the Town of Greece city council prayer policy. Gallops stated that Rowlett's policy is almost identical to the Town of Greece.

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