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Alabama City Council Cancels Invocation by a Wiccan

Alabama City Council Cancels Invocation by a Wiccan

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no issue with the state promoting religion when it decided in Town of Greece v. Galloway that opening legislative meetings with prayer is constitutional, even if that prayer is almost exclusively a Christian one. As I wrote after the case, the majority ruled in essence that “even though the prayers supported one specific religious view and those who attended were forced to listen and encouraged to join in, not allowing prayer would be a violation of freedom of speech. In other words, if the government is inviting prayer, it can’t prohibit it later on just because everyone is praying the same way with the same religious viewpoint.” Put in even a third way, just because only Christian prayer were being offered didn’t mean the government was supporting Christianity, and striking it down because there were only Christians offering prayers is a free speech violation.

But what happens when someone who isn’t Christian wants to do a prayer? Well, based on the ruling that should be just fine. The problem, however, is what if the city council changes their mind on letting a non-Christian speak? Now, we have issues.

That’s what occurred in Huntsville, Ala., when Blake Kirk, local Wiccan, was asked to give a prayer. Once word got out, the city council changed its mind. Ironically enough, it wouldn’t have been his first time doing the prayer, just the first time he did it after stating he was a Wiccan. “I gave the invocation earlier this year, at the time they did not ask me what my faith affiliation was, but when they did this time and I told them ‘Wiccan,’  I was told I was no longer invited to give it,” Blake told WHNT News 19.

It’s not entirely clear what would be so offensive about a Wiccan prayer, exactly. Wicca as a religion is nature based, a religion comprised of prayer and worshiping of the divine, and especially dedicated to non-violence, peace and harmony. That council members were not even able to discern that his previous prayer was of the Wiccan faith says everything you need to know about the nature of the objection itself. The council doesn’t have an issue with the words but that the person saying the words isn’t himself Christian.

According to AI.com, Kirk’s last prayer referred to “O gentle Goddess and Loving God,”and Kirk was called a “leader in earth-based spiritual communities.”

Now, however, Kirk is on indefinite hold, because identifying as a Wiccan is “too divisive” for the audience coming to the city council meeting. Kirk says that’s obvious religious discrimination. “I hope there are no adverse results about this for Frank (Broyles) or the Interfaith Mission Service,” Kirk said. “I expect the decision was made with an intent to do the right thing for what they thought were good reasons, but, whatever their intention, it becomes overt religious discrimination.”

The challenge in the Greece case was brought about by non-Christian faith members who felt uncomfortable that they had to listen to explicitly and exclusively Christian prayer in order to participate at all in the city council’s agenda. Yet, in Huntsville, when a non-Christian prayer was publicly promoted, and potential attendees balked because they felt that the Wiccan prayer would make them uncomfortable, the prayer was canceled and the invitation rescinded. Instead, the meeting started with a moment of silence.

If a moment of silence is the best way to ensure no one is offended, why isn’t that how every meeting starts? Why is a prayer injected into the city business at all?

Allegedly Kirk can return once some “education” has been conducted, according to the the Interfaith Mission Service, which is good news for the 75 percent of those residents who do not identify as Christian. If there has to be prayer, having diverse viewpoints is obviously the best way to go about it. Still, the council will have to at some point admit that they discriminated based on religion when they told Kirk he was no longer invited, even if it was just for that meeting.

Pretty sure that’s not something Jesus would do.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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168 comments

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5:42PM PDT on Jul 9, 2014

This religious bile isn't just AL but in ME as well. Several women I work with complain daily AT WORK about how they are being attacked by the "heathens". They feel free to share how heathens are out there doing "god knows what" in the woods under the moon while beating drums to satan. This is no joke unfortunately. They feel perfectly at ease bringing this up at work in a non-profit non-religious associated entity. Should I discuss my spiritual beliefs with someone else which are earth-based, then I am attacking them and their faith. Yes, I finally said something since I am tired of being bullied by fundamental xtian idiots. The new rulings in favor of prayer and Hobby Lobby have just instilled these morons with more bravado. Time to sue them back in like I guess. I know I won't be keeping my mouth shut any longer at work when they start up. Yes, I DO know my rights.

6:41AM PDT on Jul 6, 2014

well said, Sylvia and BMutiny

8:31AM PDT on Jul 3, 2014

Christians are just a bunch of superstitious nutters. Religion has no place whatsoever at legislative meetings.

7:11PM PDT on Jul 2, 2014

Thanks

6:47PM PDT on Jul 2, 2014

Actually god was added to the pledge of allegiance in nineteen FIFTY FOUR! The first time "In God We Trust" appeared on a coin was the 1864 2-cent bronze piece. I wonder why it didn't appear until almost 100 years after the US was founded. Hmmm..., makes you think. Also, look at this- this is the FIRST Treaty of Tripoli in 1797: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." I am not a militant atheist. My oldest daughter is a Christian as are my parents and sisters. As long as you leave me alone, I'll leave you alone.

2:31PM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

Wow, the hypocrisy of the right wing religious bigots knows no bounds.

1:35PM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

Phoebe D.
“I'm not being condensing, hateful, smart ass, but who was the first which? Just asking. Any civilized comments?”

which witch.
http://www.history.com/news/before-salem-the-first-american-witch-hunt

1:34PM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

Carol M
“Wow, and you think Christians are out of touch?!?”

we don't “think” it, we 'know' it, as per your statement validates.

Karen H.
“I'm tired of being expected to sing God Bless America at ball games. Since when does God have anything to do with baseball?”

that's that's the “true” definition of blasphemy.

Nyak C
“Disagree all you like, it won't change that FACT that in every courthouse in America, there reads the plaque, IN GOD WE TRUST.”

So...? was that placed there by god or man? They could place “IN PENIS WE TRUST”, in every courthouse in America, wouldn't mean we should all trust in penises.

“And as far as "business"- take a closer look at your dollar bills...you will find the same inscription.”

I repeat; was that placed there by god or man? They could place boogiddy boogiddy cheese on currency, it would hold much the same meaning.

Magdalen B.
“Could the person in charge of the meeting not say something like, " Let us take a few minutes individually and in silence." (Maybe set a timer)”

or play the Jeopardy final round theme. ;)

Jenny F
“What's a Pastafarian? Someone who worships lasagne?

May be a typo for RASTAFARIAN, maybe just pure ignorance.”

http://www.venganza.org/page/103/

http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/pastafarian-politician-sworn-into-office-while-wearing-spaghetti-strainer-on-his-head-20140106

5:19AM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

Would Kirk have received the same treatment if he's offered an Islamic, Jewish or Hindu prayer?

4:48AM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

noted

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