All must be included

Excerpts from article at above link :
A federal court on Sept. 30, 2017 struck down a Florida county’s divisive practice of refusing to allow non-theistic invocations at the start of the county commission’s meetings. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought by Americans United and allies.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that the policy of Brevard County’s Board of Commissioners to allow only monotheistic, overwhelmingly Christian invocations violated both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions – due to the government’s favoring of certain faiths.

David Williamson, one of the plaintiffs in the case, told the newspaper Florida Today, “I’m very pleased with what I read in the decision. This was straight-up discrimination, in relegating us to second-class citizenship in denying us our participating in the invocations.”

In 2014, Williamson, a U.S. Navy veteran and ordained Humanist celebrant, requested that a member of the Central Florida Freethought Community be permitted to offer an invocation. He was denied.

Commissioners seemingly just assumed that the intent of the non-theists was to denigrate Christianity and other monotheistic religions. In reality, the non-theists had no intention of speaking ill of other faiths, nor were they seeking to stop others from giving monotheistic prayers. Rather, they simply wanted the chance to occasionally offer words of encouragement to their government officials and solemnize the meetings in a way that was inclusive to people of all faiths.

“People are often surprised by what they hear, and they like it,” Williamson previously told Church & State about the non-theistic invocations offered elsewhere in Florida. “All of the invocations conducted in central Florida thus far have been radically inclusive of everyone in attendance, celebrated the diversity of the community and acknowledged that together we can face the challenges that come our way. ”

Barry W. Lynn, AU’s then-executive director, summed up the inclusivity required of legislative prayers when the Fields case was filed: “When governmental bodies open their meetings with invocations, no viewpoints should be excluded. That includes people who do not believe in God. No one should be made to feel like a second-class citizen by their government.”

Why People Of Faith Should Support Non-Theistic Invocations by Bill Mefford

Excerpts from article posted at this link :
…..And this is why it is mystifying to me, and I would argue it would be mystifying to Paul as well, that Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives (many of whose members I am sure are devout Christians) would refuse to allow people who hold non-theistic beliefs to offer invocations. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives allows members of faith-based religions to offer invocations to open House sessions. For some odd reason, they are not giving this same opportunity to members of non-theistic groups as well, leading Americans United and American Atheists to sue. The House is engaging in discrimination, pure and simple. Like Athens, the United States is pluralistic. Any government body that represents people of many different faiths, as well as people of no faith, is legally and morally required to treat them all equally. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives should be willing to accept a non-theistic invocation. An invocation is simply an opening statement that offers thoughtful and reflective ideas before a meeting or event of some kind. I have done this dozens of times. The practice of invoking means literally to beseech or earnestly call for something to happen. Commonly used at the beginning of meetings or events, invocations attempt to bring people together and help establish a mindset for cooperation and effective work. In an age where many legislative bodies have become bitterly partisan, we need all of the cooperative spirit we can get! In the case of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, the proposed involvement of non-theistic people in giving invocations is a helpful reminder that government serves people of many backgrounds and if some are allowed to offer invocations, then all must be given that same opportunity. The refusal to allow non-theistic people to offer invocations does not do anything to promote Christianity. Again, Christianity thrives when pluralism is practiced and embraced. And this means allowing all people to express their beliefs, or to express no belief, in whatever way doesn’t cause harm to anyone else. When people of non-theistic beliefs are shut out of participation and are blatantly discriminated against, as is the case in Pennsylvania, it does no one any good. Indeed, it creates unnecessary harm. Discriminating against people with non-theistic beliefs is a denial of who we are as United States citizens …..
Title of article:
Why People Of Faith Should Support Non-Theistic Invocations
by Bill Mefford

Florida state legislators have introduced legislation that would allow Floridians to use religion as a means to harm others

Click here for a simple way to write your Florida representative

Quote from above link:
Unwilling to accept the advances in LGBT rights, women’s equality, and reproductive health, religious extremists in Florida are asking for a trump card to undermine this progress. They want to allow individuals and corporations to use religion as an excuse to deny healthcare, refuse to provide services, and disobey laws protecting Floridians from discrimination and abuse.

As the legislative session begins this week, we already know that Florida state legislators have introduced legislation that would allow Floridians to use religion as a means to harm others. These types of bills do not represent true religious liberty. No one should be allowed to use religion as an excuse to refuse service for, deny healthcare to, or threaten the safety of others.

You can join us in this fight today by contacting your state senator and representative. Tell them that you oppose any bill that would authorize discrimination in the name of religion.


Article by Rabbi Shapiro

An article by

Rabbi Merrill Shapiro

By the time you read this, it is likely that Rabbi Merrill Shapiro will have completed his third three-year term as President of the Board of Trustees of Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s National Board of Trustees. He will revert to being just a regular Trustee, one of 15 that guide the watchdog protecting the First Amendment rights of all the citizens of these United States. He will be replaced as President of the Board of Trustees by Reverend Neal Jones of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Devon, Pennsylvania.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, AU for short, is different from organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation in that it recognizes the power of those people of faith who share the dismay of freethinkers everywhere when the Religious Right feels that it has a role in shaping the policies of our government, a government we pay for, a government “of, by and for the people!”

Most recently, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has launched Protect Thy Neighbor because we are seeing more and more attempts to use religion to discriminate and deny people their rights. For years we have been working in the courts, legislatures, and on the ground to oppose these attempts to abuse religious freedom. With Protect Thy Neighbor, we are devoting even more resources to win this fight. We are expanding our work in the state legislatures, Congress, and the courts so that no one is allowed to use religion as an excuse to refuse you service, deny you healthcare, or threaten your safety. We are protecting our neighbors.

Click here for more info about Protect Thy Neighbor