Nonbelievers continue to give secular invocations: Brooke Mulder, Eric Williams, Michele Ritt & Amanda Novotny

Brooke Mulder

City Council, Glendale, Ariz.

Aug. 12, 2014

The purpose of the invocation read before each council meeting is to “add solemnity” to the proceedings. I can’t think of anything more solemn or significant than the act of democracy itself. As citizens of this great country, we have the right to participate equally in the proposal, development and creation of laws. We may choose to do this directly, by serving on a city council, as governor or even as president of the United States. Or we may choose to participate indirectly by electing representatives to act in our interests.

Let us all take a moment to reflect on why we are here tonight. If you are here, you may have chosen a path of serving your electorate, to the benefit of their welfare. Or you may have concerns you’ve chosen to bring in front of the council. We should be grateful that the city of Glendale has those who are willing to serve and those who trust in the system enough to participate in the process. It is people like those that enable us to truly govern ourselves.

My principles as a secular humanist teach me to rely on reason and our common humanity. A city council is an excellent illustration of how people can come together, without supernaturalism, to provide meaningful changes in each other’s lives.  I would like to leave you with a final thought from Thomas Jefferson: “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order and they will preserve them.”

Thank you. 

 

Brooke writes: I have spent the last nine years as an Army spouse/girlfriend. My husband attended West Point for four years, followed by five years as an active duty infantry officer. I have moved from Florida, to New York, to Georgia, to Washington and finally to Arizona. My husband is now a civilian, so hopefully we can settle down here!

One of the hardest parts of being an Army spouse (in addition to the separations, the deployments and the moves) is the exclusive, nonsecular culture in the Army, especially among the officer corps. The Army is one of the only organizations where your spouse’s behavior can affect how your chain of command feels about you and consequently promotions and performance evaluations.

It is an unspoken rule as an Army officer that you should be religious, and preferably Christian. There are constantly prayers before meetings and briefings, religious marriage retreats, invitations to church and bible study.The invitations themselves did not bother me. However, the knowledge that we’d be snubbed after we politely declined did.

I remember one instance, among many, in particular. My husband’s commanding officer’s wife asked me point blank what religion I was and what church I attended. I didn’t even use the “A word” in my answer, but politely told her I did not attend church. After she found out I was not Christian, she never spoke to me again and the social invitations dried up. Now that we are in the civilian world, we are free to admit we are not believers without the fear of career retribution.

 

Eric Williams

City City Council, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Aug. 12, 2014

Good afternoon. Before I begin, let me offer my thanks to Ms. Dean Beukema for allowing me this opportunity. Her service to our community over the last 25 years reflects her dedication and love for our great community.

Council members, President [Keith] King, thank you for inviting me here.

Thousands of years ago, after emerging from relative obscurity, mankind began to form communities. The first ones were simple hunter gatherers, evolved to feed their own very small camps. Soon, these small camps and tribes began to join to each other, either through violence or simple needs. Either way, they saw joining forces as being the foundation for survival.

Over the millennia, agriculture built even larger tribes. They became large villages, then towns, then cities, then city-states. And even farther, empires and great kingdoms. These people in the later ages eventually became obsessed with power and greed, driven by their beliefs that their higher powers were better than any others. Patton Oswalt, a contemporary comedian, put it simply as, “My Sky Cake is better that your Sky Baklava.” These divisions caused chaos within the overall sapien community for millennia.

Then, after centuries of great strife, the “Enlightenment” was born. The United States was built upon the principles of this Enlightenment. The deists that formed our Constitution knew the dangers of sectarian strife and therefore enshrined secular government in our most sacred document.

With this in mind, I stand before the most basic unit of human democracy, the city council. The core unit of our lives as humans living within an inherently secular system. It’s the local government that actually guides the daily lives of the citizens of this great nation.

Let us therefore, this afternoon, provide both our vocal and thoughtful support to this most fundamental institution of humanity today, and hope that reason and thoughtful reflection will guide our elected leaders to lead this great city to where it could be.

So be it.

Eric is a member of FFRF and the Atheist Community of Colorado Springs.

 

Michele Ritt

Dane County Board, Madison, Wis.

June 26, 2014

I find continual inspiration in my family. As a young child, my grandmother instilled in me that community service is a way of life. Me being here today is part of that. My daughter connected me directly to the country of India. 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” 

My husband and my son brought me to a completely unexpected world. 

Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

May the force be with us all. 

 

Michele is a Dane County supervisor and FFRF member.

 

South Dakota atheist gives invocation

Amanda Novotny, Brookings, S.D., an atheist and Siouxland Freethinkers president, delivered a secular invocation Aug. 5 to open the Sioux Falls City Council meeting:

Thank you, Mr. Mayor, council members, citizens of Sioux Falls and all those present for this opportunity to provide an inspirational opening to your meeting.

Often at this time, you are asked to bow your heads. Instead, I ask you to lift your head up and look around. Turn your attention to this room, a room that has heard countless discussions, frustrations and successes, a room where important decisions regarding your city are routinely made.

Now take a moment to soak in the presence of the men and women in this room, gathered here at this time and place to engage in their civic duty, to contribute and work toward creating a better community. Think of the hundreds and thousands of others who are also affected by the ideas shared here. Let all voices be heard and understood equally.

It is also often customary to read from a book during an invocation, and tonight will be no different. I’ll be sharing a quote from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in which Professor Albus Dumbledore said: “Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

Although our differences may be many, we are bound together in similarity as members of the human species. As humans, we have the capacity to appreciate and thank each other, to utilize compassion and reason in our decision making. I ask those present to join me in showing gratitude to the men and women that serve the great city of Sioux Falls. We need only look to each other for guidance and work together to overcome any challenges we may face.

— Transcript courtesy of Hemant Mehta

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