Secular invocations: Steven Belstra & Terry Sunday

Steven Belstra
Grandville, Mich., City Council
Dec. 27, 2015

After the Town of Greece vs. Galloway decision allowing sectarian prayers at certain public meetings, Michigan resident Steven Belstra wanted to let his city council know that there were more than just Christians in its contituency.

“Every time the council had an invocation, it was done by a pastor of some local church,” Belstra writes. “People who aren’t religious needed some representation. I wouldn’t have done it at all if there weren’t prayers already taking place at every single other council meeting.”

Here is the invocation given by Belstra:

Thank you, Mayor Maas and the Grandville City Council, for having me speak today. My name is Steven Belstra and I am not an ordained minister or priest of any faith. I request from the council and our community that we don’t turn toward faith or religion to guide government decisions, but rather good will toward all people in our community.

I speak for the minorities in the area who identify as being secular humanists, atheists and one of the fastest growing groups in America, the nonreligious. Grandville contains many different people who have different beliefs, traditions and cultures, all of which we want to see considered when making decisions for our community. I ask that for today and all future meetings we can approach decisions this way. But it isn’t just in our local city council meetings where this should apply, but in all other aspects of human interaction.

2015 will be remembered as a year that major human rights decisions were made in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case, which granted state recognition to all same-sex couples. This decision by the Supreme Court of the United States is a great example of what I am alluding to.

It is in our best interest as a community to view all of our citizens as equals, regardless of their beliefs about an afterlife or their beliefs about human sexuality. So what I ask of my local city council is that you govern with reason and empathy toward all people, regardless of the church I do or don’t attend, the person who I marry, or the beliefs that you may or may not share with other citizens of the community.

Thank you for your time, council.

Steven Belstra, 26, is a business systems analyst who worked with FFRF in 2013 trying, unsuccessfully, to erect a Winter Solstice banner next to a nativity scene in Fremont, Mich.

Terry Sunday
El Paso, Texas, City Council
Oct. 6, 2015

FFRF member Terry Sunday, a “retired aerospace engineer, inveterate world traveler, ethnic cook, prolific Amazon reviewer and lifelong atheist,” gave the following secular invocation to the El Paso City Council:

Good morning, Mayor, City Council representatives and fellow El Pasoans, As we meet to conduct the business of the city of El Paso, we must always bear in mind that we all have different needs, wants, views and beliefs. We like and dislike different things, we harbor different notions of right and wrong, we have different levels of tolerance for others’ lifestyles, and we envision our roles in society differently.

But surely we can agree that our actions will succeed only to the extent that they best serve the interests of all El Pasoans.

While differences in ethnicity, gender identity, age, religious viewpoint, sexual orientation, skin color, political affiliation and other things distinguish each of us from another, in America we are all equal under the law. Our common ancestors applied their intellects and skills to benefit humankind and bring us to where we are here today. We can do no better than to continue that timeless practice.

As we consider issues in today’s meeting:

• Let us show each other respect, tolerance and kindness.
• Let us listen intently and thoughtfully to each other.
• Let us graciously acknowledge and sincerely consider opposing viewpoints.
• Let us demonstrate reason, common sense, cooperativeness and a willingness to compromise.
• Let us commit to do what is right and just, not only in letter but in spirit as well.
• Let us conduct today’s meeting with honesty, civility, integrity and open-mindedness.
• And finally, let us always act inclusively, morally, openly, professionally and in the best interests of all the citizens of El Paso.

Now make it so.

Thank you.

Freedom From Religion Foundation