My name is Susan Robinson. This is actually the third time I have been to a Turlock City Council meeting. The previous two times were when Turlock was working on adopting a pet overpopulation ordinance. I was president of the group that sponsored the county pet overpopulation ordinance.
Tonight I am here to speak as an atheist, and as a Lifetime Member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. There are several members of this organization in this area, and it is because at least one of these members in Turlock requested help from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that this matter is before you tonight.
It is the job of all American government, at all levels, to fairly and equally represent all of the people it serves. This includes people who believe in your god, in multiple gods or goddesses, or in no gods at all. If you allow any kind of prayer, either during or before a government meeting, on taxpayer-owned property, you will have to allow any leader of any set of beliefs to do the same. Anyone can become an ordained minister, and anyone can get a listing in the phone book. This means you will have to allow invocations to be given by Scientologists, secular humanists, pagans, or even satanists if they so request.
If you find the thought of invocations of those sorts to be ridiculous or offensive, then you should understand how nonbelievers feel about invocations to your god. Many nonbelievers find the god of the bible to be morally repugnant, and we have a hard time understanding how anyone can worship such an evil character.
If you do not like your god to be criticized here, you can prevent that by voting tonight to not allow any kind of religious motto or practice to accompany public meetings or use public property. Just because something has been done for a long time doesn’t mean it is an honorable tradition. Bringing your god into this governmental body is telling those who do not worship your god that they are second-class citizens and that their feelings and opinions are not as important as yours.
Indeed, you have already told non-Christians and nonbelievers exactly that. When informed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation how nonbelievers feel about prayer at government meetings, you responded by proposing painting “In God We Trust” (that unfortunate secondary motto adopted during the McCarthyism hysteria in the 1950s) in here. That proposal is just plain spiteful. It is mean-spirited Christian spitefulness, and I do not think your Jesus character would be pleased with you.
If you put your god into this government venue, then you invite me and any others to come talk to you about that god. We can come to meetings and read quotes from your bible, (and there are some real doozies in that book), and ask you to state for the record whether the god in those particular verses is the god that you trust in.
You can take the moral high ground by voting tonight to make this government body completely neutral toward religious belief and nonbelief. And then you can begin to represent equally all the citizens of this area and invite all people to come together for the common good, not just the ones who share your religion. Don’t be a tyrannical majority.
Thank you for your time.
Sue writes: “I live in Modesto, Calif., with my husband, Paul, who’s also an atheist, and a few furry felines (also atheists.) I am 50 years old and have only been ‘out of the closet’ for two years. I’m trying to make up for lost time in my activism. When not campaigning for state/church separation or animal welfare, I enjoy reading books (which is what makes me dangerous) and gardening.”