Secular invocations, unlike prayer, never fail Constitution

Deana Weaver

Pennsylvania Senate
April 15, 2015

Thank you for welcoming something different into your day. It is an honor for a constituent to be given a voice before this governing body.

In recent months, religious beliefs have been at the forefront of a heated national debate.

We are fortunate to be citizens of the country founded and formed to recognize the importance of the individual, where no one shall be made to hide, or justify, his or her personal beliefs, and where no government shall impose a singular religion on its citizenry.

Where there are misunderstandings, we may engage in conscientious and respectful dialogues to assuage fears. I am humbled to represent a portion of your diverse constituency. This raises the question, can atheists pray?

A prayer can be meditative — seeking the inner strength to face difficulty and challenge.
A prayer can be solicitous — seeking to bring a benefit or relief of tribulation to oneself, a loved one or to strangers.

A prayer can be a direct appeal to a higher power. So, let us pray
That we may use our power to lead with compassion and understanding.

That we remain tolerant of others, regardless of differences in religious beliefs, gender, race and sexual or political orientation.

That we treat one another as we wish to be treated.

Let us pray for open minds, and for the strength to overcome preconceived judgments. Let us learn daily and consider wisely.

Let us be mindful of our one diverse human family with common values and needs.
Let us work toward clean air and water, safe neighborhoods, strong schools and a viable economy with sustained employment opportunities.

Let us provide for well-trained and equipped firefighters, emergency responders, police and military. Let us never forget their sacrifices.
As we forge ahead, toward the common good of community, may we all benefit from the enduring power of diversity.
Thank you.
Deana Weaver, a member of the Dillsburg, Pa., Area Freethinkers, was raised in a Methodist household “but by age 14 recognized hypocrisy and social attitudes of which I no longer wanted to be a part. I volunteered as a hospital candy striper on Sunday mornings to avoid my parents’ church attendance requirement.”

Her parents signed a waiver allowing her to enlist at age 16 in the U.S. Army. She left for active service after high school graduation in 1977, serving for four years and for 10 years in the Army Reserves.

Deana said she has pleaded with lawmakers “to refrain from applying their personal religious beliefs to legislation — very frustrating conversations.”

Linda Stephens
Town Board, Greece, N.Y.
Oct. 20, 2015

Good evening. I would like to thank Supervisor Reilich and the Town Board members for allowing me to deliver the invocation this evening. I am a member of Sunday Assembly Rochester, which is a secular congregation popularly known as an “atheist church.” Sunday Assembly welcomes nontheists of all stripes, including atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and other like-minded people.

On a personal note, I am sometimes disappointed with the quality of the invocations given before the Town Board meetings, including the atheist ones. For that reason, I sought help with this one tonight. I hope you find it acceptable.

The town of Greece is a big town. Nearly 100,000 people live here, many different kinds of people. Sometimes this can present problems, but more often than not, it’s a source of our strength. Greece residents do not all think the same way or believe the same things. Yet, it is important to remember that we are all linked by our common humanity and our shared origin. When we work together to move our town forward in a spirit of mutual respect and common decency, we showcase what is best about our community, our state and our nation.
The residents of Greece have diverse beliefs. We are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, humanists, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans, pagans, Sikhs, and that’s not all. We are straight, gay and transgender. We are young and old and everything in between. We are of different races and nationalities. Some of us are liberal, some of us are conservative, and some of us are a bit of both.

It is not surprising then that we do not agree about everything. And we often feel fiercely protective of what we do believe. There is great passion in our beliefs, and rightly so.

But there is one thing on which we can all agree. We share the goal of making our community the best place it can be. We unite here this evening around that noble aim and common purpose. Thank you.

FFRF Life Member Linda Stephens, a retired public school librarian, was the atheist plaintiff in the Town of Greece v. Galloway Supreme Court decision, and with co-plaintiff Susan Galloway received FFRF’s 2014 Freethinker of the Year award. Her invocation is modeled on one developed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State for its Operation Inclusion project. Sunday Assembly Rochester is a godless congregation that meets monthly.

Zachary Moore
City Council, Keller, Texas
Aug. 18, 2015

Mayor Matthews and council members, on behalf of the Keller Humanists and the Keller Interfaith Alliance, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to help memorialize this meeting tonight.

As the council gathers here to make decisions on behalf of the people of Keller, I ask you to lift your heads, to open your eyes and open your hearts.

Let us remember the words of the prophet Isaiah, who imagined a kingdom of peace where “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”

Let us remember the children of Keller tonight, who will be returning to their studies next week. What we do here as citizens prepares the way for our children, and the children of our neighbors, to lead us into the future. Let us build for them a city of peace and prosperity, of hope and opportunity. Let us instill in them the values of equality and liberty, help them celebrate inclusively the diversity of our community.

Let us show them, through our decisions here tonight and moving forward, that we seek to bring about a peaceable kingdom, where adversaries become companions, and where fear is replaced by love, right here in Keller.

Thank you for your service to the people of Keller.

FFRF member Zachary Moore, who has a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Cincinnati, has given three secular invocations to the Keller City Council, with a fourth canceled (see sidebar). Zachary, former executive director of the Fellowship of Freethought Dallas and coordinator for the Dallas–Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, is currently executive director of Keller Humanists, treasurer of Camp Quest Texas and a Foundation Beyond Belief board member.

Freedom From Religion Foundation