There is and has been a lot of buzz and discussion going on in and around the City of Jacksonville to get the Human Rights Ordinance amended to include the LGBT folks. Jacksonville’s struggle over the HRO was even featured in the New York Times. New York Times article at this LINK
I know we have and will continue to support this needed amendment to the HRO.
There is another area where the City of Jacksonville has been less than inclusive: invocations at City Council meetings. The First Coast Freethought Society is gearing up to get a freethinker into the rotation to give an invocation at a City Council meeting. The FCFS needs the support of all of the Humanist/Atheist/Agnostic/Freethought/Skeptic organizations in the city to make this happen. Please send the letter I have included below to the Jacksonville City Council. If the City Council receives lots of requests for a freethinker to give an invocation at one of the City Council meetings, it will be a lot easier to get a freethinker on the calendar and in the rotation to give an invocation.
HERE is what AU has said about atheists giving invocations at city council meetings.
The buzz and discussion about inclusiveness is a giant wave going through the City of Jacksonville. We need to ride that wave right into the City Council chambers. I urge you to please send the below letter to the City Council and please urge others to do the same.
President of First Coast Freethought Society, Inc
Loyal member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[your name and address]
Councilman Jim Love
Office of the City Council
117 W. Duval St., Suite 425
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Re: Invocation Request
To the Honorable Jim Love:
There are several humanist/freethought/non-religious organizations in the City of Jacksonville, including The First Coast Freethought Society (FCFS). FCFS is a local educational organization with approximately one hundred dues paying members. FCFS has been in existence since 1998. One of the FCFS’s objectives is to educate the public about the need for inclusiveness,including the non-religious members of our community.
In the recent Supreme Court decision, Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Court emphasized that a government’s prayer practice must be “nondiscriminatory” and it must make reasonable efforts to include invocations from all members of the community, regardless of their faith. In fact, the completely open selection process was crucial to the prayers being upheld: “The town at no point excluded or denied an opportunity to a would-be prayer giver. Its leaders maintained that a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist, could give the invocation.” (Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway, 12-696, 2014 WL 1757828 (U.S. May 5, 2014)) Therefore, excluding a particular faith group from consideration is unconstitutional. (Pelphrey v. Cobb County, 547 F.3d 1263, 1276 (11th Cir. 2008)).
In light of these facts, it is clear that local government meetings should include Humanist/Atheist/Agnostic invocations as well as those from any other religious minorities. I respectfully request that you give the FCFS the opportunity to offer invocations at your meetings. Earl Coggins has submitted the official request that a member of the FCFS be included in the rotation of invocation speakers.
The number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing. The percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” is 22.8% according to this article at pewforum.org
With 22.8% of the U.S. population identifying themselves as unaffiliated with any religion, the FCFS’s request presents an opportunity for the Jacksonville City Council to demonstrate that it seeks to celebrate diversity with its actions and does not discriminate on the basis of religion. Additionally, you will be providing your Humanist and other non-religious constituents with a voice and an equal opportunity to be included in the ceremonial portion of business meetings on a regular basis.