Stand up for freethought with secular ‘invocations’: Ted Utchen, David Williamson, Robert Ray, David Suhor, Tim Earl & Justin Vacula

Below are transcripts of secular invocations recently entered into FFRF’s new Nothing Fails Like Prayer contest. The individual deemed to have delivered the best “atheist homily” or secular invocation before a governmental body will receive an all-expense paid trip to FFRF’s annual convention, to open the gathering with the winning “invocation” of reason, freethought, etc., and receive a $500 honorarium.

Entrants must provide a video and transcript. All eligible entrants will receive a certificate suitable for framing.

Ted Utchen, Wheaton, Ill., City Council, 6-2-14

Let us rise each morning, and strive each day, to do only that which brings happiness and joy to others, and avoid doing things that cause others hurt and pain. Let us use our minds and our reason to foster behavior based on the mutuality and reciprocity inherent in human relationships, and let us always respect the dignity and worth of each other. And let us, above all, love one another, not to obtain rewards for ourselves now or hereafter or to avoid punishment, but rather always to bring each other contentment and peace. So be it.

David Williamson: Kissimmee, Fla., Osceola Board of County Commissioners, 6-16-14

Through the millennia we as a society have learned the best way to govern the people is for the people to govern themselves. Today, in this tradition, we travel from our homes and businesses across the county; citizens, staff, and those elected converge on this chamber to work as one community united and indivisible by nearly every measure. Each of us arrives as individuals with unique ideas and experiences but all with a need or, in a spirit of goodwill, to fulfill the needs of others.

Citizens request assistance and offer their concerns and we are ever grateful for their interest and for their trust in the process. Staff provides invaluable expertise in their particular field and we truly appreciate their continued service. Elected officials listen, debate, and choose the path forward for us all out of a sincere desire to serve and honor the people of Osceola County while shaping its future. We all offer our thanks in that often thankless task.

When we leave this chamber this evening, let us carry with us this same spirit of service and goodwill tomorrow and every day that follows.

This is how we assemble to serve and to govern, ourselves.

Robert Ray, Oak Harbor, Wash., City Council, 4-4-14

Thank you, mayor and council members, for this opportunity to provide an inspirational start to your meeting. Normally, you would bow your heads for an invocation in this chamber, but I am going to ask that you raise your eyes and think about a few things today.

When this body comes together to govern, they do so with the consent of the citizens of Oak Harbor. Oak Harbor is a very diverse community with many different views and opinions.

My secular humanism, which is to say reason and science, leads me to believe that we as humans can meet the challenges of these differences and create a society with less dissension and leave a better, more equal culture for future generations.

It is incumbent upon this council to make the best decisions for the community. In this regard, I ask that you use reason, wisdom and empathy in your deliberations today. To take into account the implications your decisions will have now and in the future. We should all plant an acorn, even though we may not live to hear the wind rush through its leaves or the joyous laughter of children playing in the comfort of its shade. We plant the seed for the benefit of future generations.

In the words of Bertrand Russell, in order to do our part, “One must care about a world one will not see.”

David Suhor, Pensacola, Fla., City and County Commissions, 2-13-14/9-9-12


Mother, father, gods of ALL people,

we come today in our humble way to shape a small part of your creation

Gathering to a task, in your diverse and glorious presence,

together we invoke your unique blessings and your life essence

May the efforts of this council blend

The justness of Allah with the wisdom of Odin

May Mithra the everlasting ground them with the grace of mother Gaia

May Yahweh forgive their shortcomings and Beddru foresee their salvation

And we praise you, Jehovah of Christ, Huītzilopōchtli and Ba’al

for the sanguine sacrifice that frees us all

And for the bounty of reason, science and logic, we thank the ONE deity  

none of us knows, that of humanist, atheist and agnostic

Divine love, lead us, enlightened by Buddha and Eshu, empowered by Thetan spirits

that we may govern with the wisdom and the good of ALL gods of our nation

PLEASE impart our humble congregation 

with prudence, prosperity and peace this day     

and so we pray. Amen.

Tim Earl, Portage, Mich., City Council, 7-23-13

Thank you once again for inviting me back to give this invocation on behalf of the nonbelievers in our city.

As you gather here today to see to the business of our city, I ask you to consider whom you are here to serve. Not a deity, but the diverse population of Portage. This includes not only Christians of many sects, but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, nonbelievers and others.

As Aristotle said over 2,000 years ago, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Our community is made stronger by the presence of different cultures, traditions and viewpoints. The freedom each of us enjoys to follow our own spiritual path with no government interference, established by our constitution over 200 years ago, has served as a shining example for the rest of the world and has contributed to the astonishing success of our nation. When we forget or ignore this principle of inclusion, we turn our backs on the wisdom of the founding fathers and tarnish their legacy, weakening our society in the process.

We don’t have to respect each other’s views. But we do have to respect each other’s right to hold those views and practice their beliefs without fear of persecution, as long as it doesn’t infringe upon the rights of others.

But the differences between us are really not that significant. Nearly every religion claims that its holy book serves as the basis for human morality, and yet they’re remarkably similar. Even atheists, with no holy book of our own, share many of the same values as believers. Whereas a Christian may value all life as a gift from God, an atheist values life just as much because he believes that it’s all we have, and all that we’ll ever be. In the end, our goal is the same: to enrich the lives of others and make the world a better place for everyone. It’s our common humanity, not ancient texts, that unites us all and guides us to treat each other with dignity and respect.

And so I ask you to consider that common humanity as you deliberate tonight.

Because in this chamber, it doesn’t matter what Jesus would do, or Buddha or Muhammad, or even Jefferson or Lincoln. What matters is what’s best for the citizens of Portage today and in the years ahead. Let that be the principle which guides your decisions.

Justin Vacula, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., City Council, 6-12-14 [excerpted]

I asked to provide a secular invocation at the start of council meetings to provide an alternative to the government-led Judeo-Christian prayer offered by Councilwoman Maureen Lavelle which begins each meeting.

The council refused my request to offer an invocation at the beginning of the meeting, but allowed me to offer a secular invocation during the public comment period. I lament that decision to continue exclusionary prayer led by government officials at public meetings.

We come here to do the business of local government. Government officials have pledged to improve the quality of this community and are entrusted with doing so.

As we gather, we are reminded that although we have differences we are linked by our common humanity.  When we work together to move our community forward in a spirit of mutual respect and common decency, we showcase what is best about our community, our state and our nation.

We embrace many traditions and represent many demographics. We are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, humanists, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans, pagans, unaffiliated, uncertain and so many other things. We are young and old and everything in between. We represent many races and nationalities. We identify as libertarian, liberal, progressive and conservative.

To be sure, we do not agree about everything and we often feel fiercely protective of what we do believe. But there is one thing on which we all agree. We share the goal of making our community the best place it can be. We unite here today with that noble aim and common purpose.  

Let informed reason, evidence, and argument inform discourse not only at council meetings, but also in all aspects of our lives. Demand good reasons, arguments and evidence when people present claims. Thoroughly consider perspectives of those with whom you disagree.

For if we happen to discard our cherished beliefs, we make intellectual progress. While it may be difficult to admit being wrong or break away from tradition, changing our beliefs so that we perceive the world more accurately is a huge benefit, a sign of growth and maturity.

It is my hope that we challenge ourselves and others to improve our quality of life. It is my hope that respect, when deserved, is extended to others. It is my hope that good argument, evidence and reason guides the decisions of all within and outside of this room. Thank you.

Freedom From Religion Foundation