Invocations

08 October, 2015
| By Bruce Williams
2015.06.09


If your locality has invocations at any political meetings it would be a good idea for you to give regular secular invocations if for no other reason than to remind those politicians that it is not just their religion that they are required to support in their political actions.

For those of you unfamiliar with what an invocation is, it is supposed to be the solemnization of the political process that is about to occur. The legal reasoning behind allowing prayers at legislative meetings is based on the fact that our initial Congress began each meeting with a prayer. And since Congress is the legislative branch the courts have reasoned that when the legislative branch approved the First Amendment they did so knowing full well that they were beginning their meetings with a prayer to enforce the idea that what they were about to do was not frivolous but rather was important. It also fits with the second part of the Establishment Clause, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof “. Since the public is not required and as a matter of fact is often excluded from these meetings, it is essentially a private meeting and as such they are not violating the clause by performing a “private” prayer.

This condition is quite different from most if not all executive and judicial meetings which are almost exclusively open to the public and often more than invite they actually demand the appropriate citizenry be there.

The courts have then extended this right of “private” prayer down through all legislative meetings. Its extension into city and county government meetings has introduced one problem, and that is the fact that most local legislative style meetings, city councils, county board meetings, etc. like judicial and executive meetings often more than invite they actually demand the appropriate citizenry be there.

To overcome this problem the courts have ruled that if invocations are given they must be done such that it is the citizens doing the invocation without interference, degradation or promotion of any sort from the governmental body and its members.

It is also understood that since the government has an obligation to equality to all religions and all non-religions the invocations cannot be proselytizing or demeaning towards other sects. The invocations function is to let the politicians know that they are not doing something frivolous, it is not there to promote the one giving the invocation. As such invocations should not demote any sect or attempt to convert others but rather should bring the community together in an effort to perform a political function with the greatest inclusivity of all involved.

This being the guide lines given by the various U.S. Courts, I have taken this obligation up and delivered the following 2 invocations at the Gillette WY City Council meetings:

The first was on 2014.11.05

Let us open our eyes and minds to the fact that we need to remind those politicians that are going to make decisions tonight that it is all the varied peoples of Gillette they need to consider when making those decisions. Let us also remind them that their primary duty is to maintain the freedoms of the people and are not here to run the government as a for profit company but rather to run a limited government efficiently. It will also be helpful to remind them that we are not a democracy but rather a constitutional republic where they are inside of a bubble that limits the government to certain tasks and those tasks must be carried out within the limits of the laws, not the wishes of the majorities or the feelings of the members.

Let us also acknowledge that this form of government does not come free. There are those that have given their all for those freedoms including Robert Rogers, Wally Garst, and Craig Merrington all of whom died alone in combat in a foreign land known as Vietnam. Before beginning this meeting let us have a moment of silence so each person can, in their own way, acknowledge those who have died – those who are not because of that sacrifice – and welcome those that are because of that same sacrifice.

May we have a moment of remembrance please: Delay 15 seconds

With our freedoms and the sacrifice of those people in mind, let this meeting begin.

The second was on 2015.05.06

I’m sure you all remember the case of Matthew Shepard, an incident not unlike the 1889 lynching of Ellen Watson (who you may erroneously know as Cattle Kate) and Jim Averill. The hard earned lesson from that lynching that was applied to he Shepard case is that there should be no“special” people or groups of people. Instead, we need to realize that everyone is equal under the law, and if anyone wrongs another the state will not be burdened with concentrating on justice for the “special” people but instead can and will provide equal justice and liberty for every one. It is hard sometimes to explain to people that this is the proper way for a government to act. Fortunately, over the many years since that lynching our legislators have held to the principle of equality, not specialty. So in your government duties history has shown us that continuing this practice of equality is a good thing. Please keep that in mind during your decision making.

Would those who wish to honor our veterans please rise?

Let us acknowledge that equality does not come free. There are those that have given their all for those freedoms including Manual Davila who died in Kuwait, Ryan Zorn who died in Iraq, and Jacob Ross who died in Afghanistan. Before beginning this meeting let us have a moment of silence so each person can, in their own way, acknowledge those who have died – those who are not because of that sacrifice – and welcome those that are because of that same sacrifice.

May we have a moment of remembrance please.

With our freedoms and the sacrifice of those people in mind, let this meeting begin.

The third was on 2016.02.02

The birth of freedom and equality was first recorded some 4,100 years ago when Ur-Nammu created his law code. In his Preamble he declared he was going to “establish equity in the land; banish malediction, violence and strife, . . .”. through standardizing weights and measures, and having a uniform law code throughout the kingdom based on equality as expressed in the idea that “The orphan was not delivered up to the rich man; the widow was not delivered up to the mighty man; the man of one shekel was not delivered up to the man of one mina.”

That foundation waxed and waned with different cultures but made little if any lasting progress for 3,900 years until it finally took a solid hold in this country in 1776. And like Ur-Nammu our founding fathers did not get everything right; both allowed slavery, treated women as less than men, and had some punishments that were a bit extreme. But at least the foundation was laid. And in the 240 years since the anchoring of the idea of freedom and equality into our nation we have been advancing the freedoms of all humans as we should should have been doing for those 3,900 years.

As a government and a people we should remember that humans have today spent 4,100 years progressing to the freedoms we know today and now is not the time to fall back into that oppressive state of humanity through our own arrogance, passivity or the misdeeds of others. So when you make your decisions, both large and small, please keep in mind that this struggle for equality has been long and fraught with much hardship and need not be fought again.

I would now like to honor some of our veterans.

The Wyoming SubVets honors the men of the USS Barbel so let us acknowledge that there are those that have given their all for these hard-won freedoms including the 81 men of the USS Barbel, SS-316 lost sometime between February 3 and February 7, 1945 somewhere in the western approaches to Balabac island or the southern entrance to the Palawan Passage in the southern Pacific. Before beginning this meeting let us have a moment of silence so each person can, in their own way, acknowledge those who have died – those who are not because of that sacrifice – and welcome those that are because of that same sacrifice.

May we have a moment of remembrance please

Delay 15 sec.

Thank the Council

The fourth was on November 15, 2016

Money woes come and go, but the human condition continues along as much today as it always has. Somehow money woes seem to affect people the same no matter where you go or when you went. After all, we didn’t develop writing to pass along great social truths, it was incised counting tokens developed 9,000 years ago so the accountants of the day could keep track of property owned by whom that started us down the recording things path, and of course things of value were what was recorded, not great social accomplishments.

From there writing evolved into pictographs in Uruk in Mesopotamia and finally into cuneiform writing which was developed primarily to track grain production used to produce beer and also record the amount of beer each citizen got. That’s right – Beer was THE most important reason to develop full fledged writing.

And just as the variations in crop production produced woes for the beer drinkers and government of Mesopotamia, variations of resource needs creates woes for us today.

But thinking about it, in the case of the Mesopotamians’, when there were hard times the people had to put up with less beer, in our case we will have to put with fewer amenities from you, the government. So really, who’s suffering is worse?

Seriously though, as you make your decisions during these less than ideal times just remember that what you do now may well change all of mankind for thousands of years to come, so make those decisions wisely.

I would now like to honor some of our veterans.

There is a much forgotten group of citizens who died in a far off land who’s sacrifice is little known, and seldom acknowledged. These 3 men from Campbell County died in the forgotten war – Korea. They were Charles E. Robb, Roselio Jaramillo, and Elmer Levi Wells. All of them gave their lives to maintain this idea of freedom, so before this meeting begins let us have a moment of silence so each person can, in their own way, acknowledge those who have died – those who are not because of that sacrifice – and welcome those that are because of that same sacrifice.
May we have a moment of remembrance please

Delay 15 seconds
Thank the Council


If you should decide to take up this obligation (see rules 9 & 12) you must face the fact that in small towns in republican controlled states it may not be easy to get them to allow you to do it. If they don’t then I recommend contacting the office at contact@hypatiansociety.org, or calling at 307-622-3790. We will assist you in getting it set up so you can give an invocation. You can also contact the FFRF at http://ffrf.org/about/contact

You can also expect that one or several members will walk out when you give your invocation. That is still under consideration for a law suit(s) and undefined at this time.

If you do give an invocation we would ask that you email a story about your experience as well as a copy of your invocation or at least a copy of your invocation to contact@hypatiansociety.org.

There are several websites which list secular invocations that can be used if you are not a writer by nature, or as an overview to show you what others have done. Some of these include:

http://humanist-society.org/invocations/

and

http://cflfreethought.org/invocaations/

If you are into reading legal opinions I have included a link to an opinion written by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center “Legal Memorandum:Secular Invocations”. The highlighted areas are mine, not the opinion authors.


This article is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and the HypatianSociety.org as well as any noted 3rd party attributions.