SCOTUS opinion in the Greece v. Galloway case did help somewhat, eh? An atheist gave the invocation AFTER that ruling. His application had been rejected in 2010 with this email:
From: Laquidara, Cindy [mailto:CindyL@coj.net]
Sent: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:18 PM
Cc: Loving, Suzie; Teodorescu, Adina; Laquidara, Cindy; Brown, Cheryl
Subject: City Council legislative invocation policy
Hello Mr. Coggins – Your email to Ms. Loving was referred to me for response. Please note that this is a unique area of First Amendment law. You are quite right that typically any government function or option must be made equally available, regardless of the content of the speech contained. This application of First Amendment law, which arises out of the application of the Lemon test, is, however, inapplicable to this narrow area the establishment clause and legislative invocations.
The Supreme Court has recognized that legislative bodies may start their proceedings with a prayer. This prayer is allowed so long as it is not proselytizing, or the advancement of a particular faith, or the disparagement of any faith. In addition, the legislative body cannot be seen to be endorsing any particular faith. This can be accomplished largely in two methods: 1) by a fairly broad prayer in the Judeo-Christian genre, or by circulating the prayer among religions such that it is clear that the legislative body is not endorsing any particular faith. Neither of these methods requires that a moment of silence, a non-established religion, or an atheist organization be given a role. We recognize that this is an extremely limited exception to the usual principals, but such was the determination of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any additional questions.
Cindy A. Laquidara, General Counsel
Board Certified City, County and Local
Office of General Counsel
117 W. Duval Street
Jacksonville, Florida 32202
Telephone: (904) 630-1728
Facsimile: (904) 630-8287 (RightFax)
Office Facsimile: (904) 630-1731