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Freethought Today · November 2015

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Prayer always followed secular invocation

Zachary Moore had given three secular invocations, the first in December 2014, before the Keller, Texas, City Council. A fourth was to be delivered Oct. 6, but the council canceled it, with Mayor Mark Matthews offering a prayer instead. It started with "Gracious heavenly father."

Moore's invocations were always followed by a prayer delivered by Pastor John Salvesen of the Bear Creek Bible Church, a practice which Moore accepted at first but came to see as discriminatory. He contacted FFRF, and Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote a complaint letter to the city:

"If the council insists on continuing to host prayers at public meetings, it cannot discriminate against any person wishing to give a prayer. The nonreligious and members of minority religions must be permitted to deliver invocations on an equal basis. This not only means permitting them to be in the invocation rotation, it also means not making a special show of diluting their message with a subsequent Christian prayer."

The city canceled Moore's invocation after receiving the letter.

Salvesen told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth that atheists have no one to pray to. "You can pray in the name of Jesus, in the name of Allah or anything else, any other deity. The Supreme Court guarantees that. That was their decision. But Mr. Moore does not provide a prayer."

Salvesen said if a Muslim or Jewish leader delivered the invocation, it wouldn't be necessary to follow it with a prayer.

FFRF is awaiting an official response from the city, which reportedly is considering a new invocations policy.