Thursday's opening invocation at the Huntsville City Council meeting will be delivered by an atheist. This is a first for the Council, which was in the news earlier this year, when it invited — then dis-invited a Wiccan priest — to deliver the opening invocation at a regular council meeting. It was a silly, spineless decision, made after "several citizens became alarmed" at the prospect of listening to a Wiccan prayer and called to complain.
We wonder if those same concerned citizens will have the same issues this time.
Chuck Miller, regional director of American Atheists, announced the first-time event in a recent press release:
Kelly McCauley, an atheist and Board Member of the North Alabama Freethought Association will give the invocation at the September 25th Huntsville City Commission meeting.
“This will mark the first occasion, to our knowledge, that an atheist has offered the invocation at a public meeting in Huntsville”, said Charles Miller, Regional Director of American Atheists. Mr. Miller went on to say, “This is a small step in the right direction to bring Huntsville’s ceremonial practices in line with recent court decisions and make Huntsville’s claim of being an ’Inclusive Community’ a reality.”
Miller cited Mayor Battle's Inclusive Community Initiative, noting that "true inclusion" means that everyone gets to participate. The city had ignored repeated requests from Miller and others for a meeting on the subject. Reverend Frank Broyles of the Interfaith Mission Service intervened and McCauley's invocation was scheduled "within hours," Miller said.
“I was disappointed that the City of Huntsville was initially unwilling to work with us but now that the Interfaith Mission Service has made an effort, I look forward to full inclusion of all groups and people that have been disenfranchised. This was never about having an atheist give an invocation; it is about following the law and treating everyone as equals.”
Kudos to Miller for his dogged determination to have the city recognize and respect all citizens. And also to Rev. Broyles: the IMS brings together many diverse groups of people in the city, and helps promote diversity, respect, and understanding.
No community can ever have too much of that.