Florida Atheists Sue Over Prayers at City Meetings

We read:

"A Central Florida atheist organization has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Lakeland over opening city commission meetings with prayer.

The lawsuit comes after the Atheists of Florida voiced specific outrage over the use of the name "Jesus Christ." An April 5 meeting became heated after a citizen got into a yelling match with the atheists, prompting commissioners to recess the meeting.

Courts have ruled invocations at meetings of government bodies are constitutional under some conditions. Lakeland’s policy has been ruled constitutional by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which stipulated that governments must make a reasonable effort to incorporate all religious faiths.


But would they be game to question invocations to Allah? Or would they just sit there quietly and congratulate themselves on how "tolerant" they were?

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).


  1. Hello,

    Rob Curry here. As Executive Director for Atheists of Florida, Inc., I find your question about invocations to Allah intriguing.

    The truth is that we are indeed tolerant of prayers to Allah, prayers to Jesus Christ, prayers to--well, you fill in the blank--any god that has ever haunted the imaginations of men and women throughout human history. In fact, we will defend the religious liberty of all people regardless of the particulars of their beliefs. That is an American tradition we value highly.

    What we do not tolerate is government sponsorship of prayer rituals (state "invocations"), or government officials abusing their power to grant special favors and privileges to any religious sect or tradition.

    In other words, we defend the right of people to go voluntarily to the church of their choice (or masjid for Muslims, Kingdom Hall for Jehovah's Witnesses, and so forth). We abhor and condemn any attempt to involuntarily drag people into any place of worship, or to turn city hall into an evangelical religious center.

    No mob of religious bullies has the right to impose their beliefs on others, neither Muslim bullies, nor Christian bullies, though by virtue of sheer force of numbers we encounter far more Christian bullies in Florida than Muslim ones. Our position is based on the principles of freedom.

    As an NGO, Atheists of Florida is concerned primarily with the entanglement of government and religion. The danger we face, which honest religious people also see, is that corrupt politicians will work hand in hand with corrupt religious leaders.

    That mutually assured corruption is the disease. Separation of church and state is the cure.

  2. Those fine words sound to me remarkably like Joe Stalin's Soviet constitution

    The difficulty is in getting people to believe them

    It would help if you were to tell us about your anti-Muslim campaigns

    After all Muslims don't believe in religious freedom at all

    Incidentally, I am an atheist -- but a tolerant one. I fail to see how Christian prayers hurt me

  3. For JR, I cannot emphasize enough that Atheists of Florida, Inc., is for atheists, bur against no one.

    We have no intention of running an anti-Muslim campaign, and anti-Christian campaign, or an anti-anything campaign.

    No one to my knowledge has claimed that Christian prayers, voodoo rituals or any other strictly voluntary religious practices "hurt" anyone. While some may be annoyed by things like the Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons knocking at the door in the early hours of the morning, we take no issue with such freedoms. It is only government establishment that specially favors, promotes or promulgates a particular religious view that is the problem here (and does result in harm to many citizens of Lakeland, Florida).

    For more information, I encourage you ro read the legal complaint, as it contains details of which you are almost certainly unaware.

    Thanks for being tolerant.


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