Despite efforts by the local chapter of Metroplex Atheists to deliver secular invocations, the Rowlett City Council in Texas has censored its request for equal time, maintaining that only eligible clergy members may host governmental prayer.
The May 5 Supreme Court ruling in Greece v. Galloway, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, permitted religious invocations at government provided “that a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist, could give the invocation” 134 S. Ct. at 1816.
Thus far, the Town of Greece, N.Y., site of the ruling, has adopted a more inclusive policy, inviting a Jewish layperson, a Wiccan priestess, and on July 15, an atheist, FFRF Life Member Dan Courtney, to deliver the opening invocation at its town meetings. Conversely — despite a joint letter to the Rowlett City Council on July 24 (following a June 24 letter) from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State — the Town of Rowlett caters to its Christian majority, excluding non-Christians and nonbelievers from the equal opportunity required by law.
As Justice Elena Kagan noted in her dissent, "When citizens of all faiths come to speak to each other and their elected representatives in a legislative session, the government must take especial care to ensure that the prayers they hear will seek to include, rather than serve to divide."
We would rather see the pernicious influence of religion in the governmental sphere end entirely. But as long as divisive religious speech continues to be inserted into otherwise inclusive and secular community meetings, nonreligious invocations must be accorded equal time. Please help us send the message to Rowlett City Council that there are community members — family, coworkers, friends — who are among the 20% of the U.S. population today that identifies as nonreligious. Let them know we have voices, and that we plan to use them.
Please phone or email the Rowlett City Council now!
If you have time, cc the City Council members below:
- Michael Gallops, Mayor Pro Tem, City Councilmember Place 6 —
- Robbert van Bloemendaal — City Councilmember Place 1 —
- Tammy Dana-Bashian — City Councilmember Place 2 —
- Carl Pankratz, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem, City Councilmember Place 3 —
- Debby Bobbitt, City Councilmember Place 4 —
- Rick Sheffield, City Councilmember Place 5 —
If you live in the Rowlett area, you may wish to attend or speak out during the public comment period. Rowlett City Council meetings are on the first and third Tuesdays of every month; the next is Tuesday August 5, at the City Hall Municipal Building, located at 4000 Main St., Rowlett, TX 75088.
If you live in another community in which there is governmental prayer, consider fighting back by entering FFRF’s Nothing Fails Like Prayer contest.
It’s also helpful to write a letter to your local newspaper on why prayer in government is inappropriate.
Use your own language or feel free to use any of the language below. If you live in Rowlett, please be sure to identify yourself as a Rowlett resident.
As a Texas citizen, I demand that government officials make room for religious diversity, including opportunities for secular voices to be heard. Since Rowlett City Council meetings currently open with religious invocations, it’s improper and discriminatory to muzzle nonreligious individuals who seek the opportunity to give opening remarks. Rowlett city council has indicated that you intend “to adopt a policy that does not proselytize or advance any faith, or show any purposeful preference of one religious view to the exclusion of others,” yet you only permit members of the clergy to deliver invocations. Featuring only prayers that invoke “Jesus” and Christian values shows a “purposeful preference” and makes those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods feel like second-class citizens in our own community.
We stand with Metroplex Atheists and affirm its right to deliver a secular invocation during an upcoming council meeting. Please grant its request, and please revise your policy so as not to exclude the non-Christian and nonreligious members of your community.
Thank you for taking action now!