Florida City's Commissioners Walk Out on Atheist Invocation

Walkout on Atheist Invocation
Members of the Lake Worth City Commission walk out on an atheist activist from Miami who was about to give an invocation. |

A city in Florida has recently garnered much attention when a few of its leadership walked out in protest of an atheist invocation given at a government meeting.

Members of the Lake Worth City Commissioners stepped out of their meeting last week when Miami atheist Preston Smith took to the stand to give an invocation.

Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo and three other commissioners exited the space, as seen by a video posted on YouTube last Wednesday by Wes Blackman.

"I think we ought to remember that part of free speech and expression is the ability to choose what you listen to," opined Blackman regarding their actions.

"I am glad that I shared this video … I also think that the time has passed for invocations being a part of a government meeting."

As of Wednesday the video has received over 51,000 views, more than 200 comments, over 200 likes, and about 40 dislikes.

Earlier this week, Mayor Triolo offered an explanation for her actions, arguing that the main reason for leaving was a negative posting on Twitter that Smith recently made.

"I didn't leave because Mr. Smith is an atheist, I left because of his alleged tweet," said Triolo to local news station WPTV Channel 5. "Free speech works both ways … You can say what you want and I can choose to leave."

Commissioner Christopher McVoy, who did not leave the room as Smith began his invocation, told WPTV that he disapproved of the other commissioners' actions.

"[Walking out was] very un-American, and a slap in the face to the principles people fought very hard to make sure we had those rights," said McVoy.

This is not the first time that a city government in Florida has had a controversy surrounding a public meeting and an atheist attendee.

Earlier this year, atheist John Thoreau was escorted out of a meeting of the Winter Garden City Commissioners for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

A member of the secular organization the Central Florida Freethought Community, which is based in Oviedo, Thoreau's removal prompted outcry from secular organizations.

David Williamson, founder of CFFC, told The Christian Post in an earlier interview that Winter Garden's actions were "outrageous" and "violated the law when he asked citizens to stand for the invocation."

"Seventy one years ago the Supreme Court affirmed that public school students do not have to stand for the pledge, and I am aware of no time in our history when standing was ever mandatory for adults," said Williamson.

"Our hope is that this will be an opportunity to educate the mayor, the commission, as well as elected officials and citizens across the country."

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