Freethought Today · June/July 2017

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Maine Senate wrong to deny invocation

FFRF is denouncing the Maine Senate's censorship of a humanist invocation.

Thomas Waddell, head of FFRF Maine, worked with state Sen. Shenna Bellows to deliver the opening invocation before the Maine state Senate. This request was initially approved by the secretary of the Senate, with Waddell scheduled to give an invocation before the Senate on May 30. Waddell delivered a humanist invocation before the Maine House earlier this year. Waddell's scheduled Senate invocation was suddenly cancelled, supposedly because of its content and length.

Waddell is being forced to meet requirements that others are not. Waddell reports that no other person selected to give the opening invocation must adhere to these unwritten requirements. The Maine Senate's stipulation that Waddell submit his remarks for review and approval violates the U.S. Constitution on a number of counts. First, disparate application of rules based on perception of Waddell's views on religion is illegal.

Second, when the government allows invocation speakers to deliver remarks, it cannot censor or approve invocations based on their viewpoint.

If the Senate insists on continuing to host prayers at public meetings, it must not discriminate against any person wishing to give an invocation, FFRF asserts.

Under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, it is discriminatory to handle similarly situated persons differently. Treating an atheist or nonbeliever who wishes to give an invocation differently from a religious citizen constitutes discrimination.

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