Below you will find every secular reflection (invocation) we could find along with videos when available as well as the duration and word count. If you are crafting your own invocation, remember that each speaker has a different pace (125 to 200+ wpm). If you know of an invocation/reflection we have missed, please message us via our Contact Us page.
We maintain the position that religious prayer has no place at local government meetings since the public attend and participate. However, in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, we have decided the best possible action we can take, for now, is to ensure the decision is fully enforced. This includes providing opportunities for ALL faith traditions and NON-believers seeking the opportunity to participate and ensuring that no pattern of prayer exists which denigrates, proselytizes, or advances any one, or to disparage any other.
So far we have sent 20 letters requesting inclusion and have received very positive responses from everyone contacted with the exception of Brevard who has decided to refuse to allow anyone who does not conform to the majority opinion on the existence of "the highest spiritual authority." Stay tuned to that story.
Here are the upcoming secular reflections/invocations in Central Florida...with more on the way!
- City of Ocoee - October 7, 2014
- Town of Lady Lake - December 1, 2014
- City of Tavares - December 3, 2014
- City of DeLand - July 20, 2015
More - Coming Soon!
26 August 2014 – Lake County (FL) Commission Meeting
Paul Tjaden: 291 words - 1 min 45 sec
Members of the County Commission and staff, citizens and guests of Lake County, for today's invocation, rather than bowing your heads, please take a moment to look around at others who are here this morning. Fifty years ago had you done that the people you'd be looking at would be folks pretty much like yourself; people who had grown up in Lake County and who shared the same faith and culture.
But since then, our community has seen incredible growth. People have moved here from other states and from countries and cultures around the world. We have citizens who are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, and people who profess no religious belief at all. Because of that, I believe that any prayer in this diverse setting could cause at least some of our citizens to feel like outsiders—that they had entered a place where their requests or problems might be considered with suspicion or indifference because their beliefs differed from the majority.
Because of this, and in respect to all of our citizens, I come before you not to pray, but instead to invoke the spirit of good will between all of us. To be sure, we don't agree about everything and sometimes we feel fiercely protective of what we do believe, but there's one thing on which we can all agree: we share the goal of making our Lake County the best place it can be.
It is my hope that at this meeting, we will work together to make positive changes in our County. lt is my hope that respect is always extended to others and it is my hope that logic and reason guide the decisions of all within and outside of this room.
12 August 2014 – City of Glendale (AZ) City Council Meeting
Brooke Mulder: 263 words - 1 min 34 sec
The purpose of the invocation read before each city council meeting is to “add solemnity” to the proceedings. I can’t think of anything more solemn or significant than the act of democracy itself.
As citizens of this great country we have the right to participate equally in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. We may choose to do this directly, by serving on a city council, as governor or even as President of the United States. Or, we may choose to participate indirectly by electing representatives to act in our interests.
Let us all take a moment to reflect on why we are here tonight. If you are here, you may have chosen a path of serving your electorate, to the benefit of their welfare. Or, you may have concerns you’ve chosen to bring in front of the council. We should be grateful that the City of Glendale has those who are willing to serve, and those who trust in the system enough to participate in the process. It is people like those that enable us to truly govern ourselves.
My principles as a secular humanist teach me to rely on reason and our common humanity. A city council is an excellent illustration of how people can come together, without supernaturalism, to provide meaningful changes in each other’s lives.
I would like to leave you with a final thought from Thomas Jefferson: “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order and they will preserve them.”
12 August 2014 – City of Colorado Springs (CO) City Council Meeting
Eric Williams: 275 words - 1 min 55 sec
Thousands of years ago, after emerging from relative obscurity, mankind began to form communities. The first ones were simple hunter gatherers, evolved to feed their own very small camps. Soon, these small camps and tribes began to join to each other, either through violence or simple needs. Either way, they saw joining forces as being the foundation for survival.
Over the millennia, agriculture built even larger tribes. They became large villages, then towns, then cities, then city-states. And even farther, empires and great Kingdoms. These people in the later ages eventually became obsessed with power and greed, driven by their beliefs that their higher powers were better than any others. Patton Oswalt, a contemporary comedian, put it simply as, “My Sky Cake is better that your Sky Baklava.” These divisions caused chaos within the overall Sapien community for millennia.
Then, after centuries of great strife, the “Enlightenment” was born.
The United States was built upon the principles of this enlightenment. The Deists that formed our Constitution knew the dangers of sectarian strife and therefore enshrined secular government in our most sacred document.
With this in mind, I stand before the most basic unit of Human democracy: the City Council. The core unit of our lives as humans living within an inherently secular system. It’s the local government that actually guides the daily lives of the citizens of this great nation.
Let us therefore, this afternoon, provide both our vocal and thoughtful support to this most fundamental institution of humanity today, and hope that reason and thoughtful reflection will guide our elected leaders to lead this great city to where it could be.
So be it.
5 August 2014 – City of Sioux Falls (SD) City Council Meeting
Amanda Novotny: 281 words - 1 min 38 sec
Thank you Mr. Mayor, Council members, citizens of Sioux Falls, and all those present for this opportunity to provide an inspirational opening to your meeting.
Often at this time, you are asked to bow your heads. Instead, I ask you to lift your head up and look around. Turn your attention to this room - a room that has heard countless discussions, frustrations, and successes; a room where important decisions regarding your city are routinely made.
Now take a moment to soak in the presence of the men and women in this room, gathered here at this time and place to engage in their civic duty, to contribute and work towards creating a better community. Think of the hundreds and thousands of others who are also affected by the ideas shared here. Let all voices be heard and understood equally.
It is also often customary to read from a book during an invocation, and tonight will be no different - I’ll be sharing a quote from J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” in which Professor Albus Dumbledore said:
“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
Although our differences may be many, we are bound together in similarity as members of the human species. As humans, we have the capacity to appreciate and thank each other; to utilize compassion and reason in our decision making. I ask those present to join me in showing gratitude to the men and women that serve the great city of Sioux Falls. We need only look to each other for guidance, and work together to overcome any challenges we may face.
5 August 2014 – City of Largo (FL) Commission Meeting
Joseph Rhinehart: 382 words - 2 min 28 sec
Thank you, council members, – and good evening, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, and fellow citizens.
First of all, I’d like to thank the Largo City Council for inviting the good folks at Atheists of Florida to offer the invocation this evening. I applaud their efforts to respond to – and to adapt to – the ever increasing diversity in our community today.
As an example of why this is so important, I’d like to invoke a recent and relevant historical sidelight: Which is to say, that this is not the first time that Atheists of Florida has been invited to give the invocation before a local city council. – Several years ago we appeared before the Tampa City Council and even though we were – I repeat – invited guests – three of the Council members were so traumatized by our mere presence that they refused to even remain in the same room with us, and walked out of the meeting before we ever uttered a single word.
Try to picture the firestorm that would have created if they had treated ANY other ethnicity or race in such a disrespectful manner.
But happily, based on today’s reception, it looks as if we are making progress towards a more compassionate, all inclusive world view. Again, I applaud your efforts.
We at Atheists of Florida have long advocated a moment of silence in lieu of an invocation, as an agreeable way to commence any meeting. - A moment to clear the mind, to focus on the business at hand, and to reflect on the best available options to achieve optimum effectiveness in one’s efforts to govern fairly and efficiently.
And so, before I yield the remainder of my time for just that purpose, a moment of silence, I wish to invoke you to remember that human beings are the solution to human problems, and that it is our responsibility, to the best of our abilities, to make the world, and to leave the world a better place. No one else can do it.
Ya know, in these surroundings, I don’t think I can go too far wrong by quoting the venerable Benjamin Franklin who famously said, “The good Lord helps those who help themselves.”
I will now relinquish the remainder of my time for a moment of silent reflection.
17 July 2014 – City of Eustis (FL) Commission Meeting
David Williamson: 212 words - 1 min 14 sec
(Note: The agenda had the speaker's name and the correct name of the organization, but the title "Pastor" and the word "Church" were added to the introduction.)
As the community gathers this evening, let us briefly reflect on the things you, as a Commission, bring with you to do the business of improving the City of Eustis for residents, the many businesses, and its cherished visitors.
Compassion is essential for effective public service and it is cultivated through a lifetime of learning about the needs of everyone in the community and the harm that follows when those needs are neglected.
Your integrity and honesty are earned through life lessons you take from family, friends, and your own personal experiences of these principles in everyone around you.
Wisdom is often called for during an invocation, however all the knowledge needed is already right here in this chamber. Your fellow commissioners, the hard-working city staff, as well as citizens and business owners come to serve along with you and to be a resource to call upon.
As we unite with the common goal of improving the lives of all stakeholders and even those who will be affected by this evening’s decisions for generations to come, take solace in the fact that on our own we can do this, because of who we are, because we have one another, and simply because it must be done.
We are all in this together. We will make it happen.
15 July 2014 – City of Vero Beach (FL) City Council Meeting
Phil Katrovitz: 238 words - 2 min 20 sec
(Note: There is missing audio from the city recording but the entire transcript is below)
Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask you not to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people of our city.
This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love.
Carl Sagan once wrote, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” There is, in the political process, much to bear.
In this room, let us cherish and celebrate our shared humanness, our shared capacity for reason and compassion, our shared love for the people of our city, for our Constitution and for our democracy - and let us root our policymaking process in these values that are relevant to all Americans, regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. In gratitude and in love, in reason and in compassion, let us work together for a better Vero Beach .
15 July 2014 – Town of Greece (NY) Board Meeting
Dan Courtney: 340 words - 1 min 12 sec
Freethinkers, atheists, non-believers, whatever label you wish, this group comprises a significant part of our population. I am honored to be providing an invocation on their behalf, and on behalf of all the citizens of the town of Greece.
On July 4th, 1776, the 56 men who pledged their lives to the document that changed the course of history, agreed to the central tenet that, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
More than 238 years later, the central premise still echoes, however faintly, from the town hall to the white columned halls of Washington. Yet this premise, this foundation necessary for a free and flourishing society, is today, more than ever, under assault. This central pillar of a free society; this notion that is deeply heretical to authoritarian culture, proclaims that it is from the people that moral authority is derived. It is that within us, the citizens, that knowledge and wisdom must emerge.
The preservation of this premise does not come from accepting the status quo, but by asserting our rights and exercising our duties. That this premise still endures testifies to its truth, and we can say with confidence that it is in seeking the counsel of our conscience that we find the beginning of wisdom. It is in the exercise of our duty as citizens that we find the beginning of knowledge.
We, as citizens, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega of our destiny, are not, as the great philosopher Immanuel Kant warned, mere means to the ends of another, but we are ends in ourselves.
This basic premise, this profound idea, guides us such that we need not kneel to any king, and we need not bow to any tyrant.
So I ask all officials present here, as guarantors of our Founders’ revolutionary proclamation, to heed the counsel of the governed, to seek the wisdom of all citizens, and to honor the enlightened wisdom and the profound courage of those 56 brave men.
14 July 2014 – Winter Park (FL) City Commission
Chris Allen: 201 words - 1 min 12 sec
Let us give thanks for the opportunities we have to strive to reach our potential, to create happiness for ourselves and others.
Using the means we have within ourselves, determination, passion, intelligence, and sincerity in purpose, we can do more than dream.
Each person has the potential to persevere, to reach one's goals, and to make the best use of the life they have.
Our ability to achieve fulfillment should also be linked to a strong desire to help the less fortunate among us.
Helping others with no expectation of reward is noble but more importantly a means for one to achieve personal happiness.
Happiness, of course, is a goal for every person. By giving ourselves our time, talents, and treasures we can achieve greater joy.
If we judge a community in terms of the welfare of the weakest among us then personal giving, caring, and sharing are vital individual traits that when combined with others who care create and sustain a thriving civil society.
Let us realize and believe in our hearts that in order to improve ourselves and our families and to elevate the human condition each of us has to be that someone who does something for others.
7 July 2014 – Groveland (FL) City Council
Paul Tjaden: 300 words - 1 min 57 sec
For tonight’s invocation I would ask that instead of bowing your heads you would just take a moment to look around at others who are here tonight. Fifty years ago, had you done that, the people you would be looking at would be people you had known most of your lives. They would be old friends from school or the church you attend on Sunday.
But since then, our community has seen incredible growth, with people moving here from other states and from countries around the world. We have citizens who are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, and people who profess no religious belief at all. I believe that any prayer in this diverse setting would cause at least some of our citizens to feel like outsiders, that they had entered a place where their requests or problems might be considered with suspicion or indifference because their beliefs differed from the majority.
Because of this and in respect to all of our citizens, I come before you to invoke the spirit of goodwill between all of us. To be sure, we do not agree about everything and we often feel fiercely protective of what we do believe. But there is one thing on which we all agree: We share the goal of making our community the best place it can be. We unite here with that aim and common purpose.
It is my hope that, at this council meeting and others, we will work together to make positive changes in our community. It is my hope that we challenge ourselves and others to improve our quality of life. It is my hope that respect is always extended to others. And it is my hope that logic and reason guide the decisions of all within and outside of this room.
3 July2014 – Volusia (FL) County Council
Jack Maurice: 221 words - 1 min 27 sec
Ladies and Gentlemen, I don't ask you to close your eyes, but to keep your eyes open to the serious issues this county government can and should solve or improve. I don't ask you to bow your heads, but to look up at what you can accomplish by applying your considerable talents and experience to the problems that confront you.
We gather here today on this eve of our celebration of independence to not only meet with our colleagues and friends with attention to a common goal but also to hopefully to commemorate the 238th anniversary of the publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776.
I and other non-religious citizen’s thank you, for allowing a secular humanist to have this opportunity to "invoke" a minority point of view.
Consider this: each of us is a minority with respect to something. Each of us is also part of some majority.
Whether we have a minority or majority viewpoint we must pledge our best efforts to help one another and to defend the rights of all of our citizens and residents.
As you work together on behalf of all who live in this great city of DeLand may you gain strength and cooperation from one another through reason and compassion.
To all, have a great and safe holiday weekend.
23 June 2014 – Orlando (FL) City Council
Chris Allen: 193 words - 1 min 15 sec
Let us give thanks for all that we have, cherish and possess--especially for the capacity to care and love, to improve ourselves, our families and community.
Whatever one’s viewpoint, either derived from faith or from reason informed by science, having the capacity to appreciate and thank others is ingrained in the DNA of The Human Condition.
We give thanks to the volunteers, the heart and soul of our community, who donate their time and talents to help the less fortunate.
And, in this setting, let’s recognize and laud the sacrifices made by many government workers, especially firefighters and police officers who risk their lives to safeguard others, no matter where residents live or if they are rich or poor.
Understanding the awesome responsibility of public service, we thank you, the mayor and city council members for using compassion and fairness, and for not acting for personal gain, or out of fear or favor.
As citizens and voters, we possess great hope that our elected officials make choices that give all people in this community, to the extent they can, an opportunity to achieve The American Dream…and to help build a greater Orlando.
17 June 2014 – Martin County (FL) Board of County Commissioners
Joe Beck: 228 words - 1 min 42 sec
Martin County is a diverse community representing a wide spectrum of religious, secular, political, ethnic, and racial perspectives. Despite our diversity we are united by the democratic principles of equal treatment for all as contained in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. We are also united in our desire to develop policies and legislation for the benefit of Martin County and its residents.
We come to this meeting with divergent points of view that need to be discussed and carefully evaluated to ensure that wise decisions are made. While we may believe that our perspectives on issues like All Aboard Florida or the Indian River Lagoon are preferable, it is important that we express ourselves in ways that demonstrate respect for others as we plant the seeds of cooperation that are necessary for us to work together for the common good.
Let us be guided by reason and compassion in our quest to solutions for life’s problems. Should we find ourselves becoming displeased over what someone has said it can be helpful to remember that harsh words don’t educate others about our points of view. They only create tension and interfere with decision making.
Let us be guided by the advice that Aristotle offered the world twenty-four hundred years ago when he said, “We should conduct ourselves towards others as we would have them act towards us.
16 June 2014 – Osceola (FL) Board of County Commissioners
David Williamson: 199 words - 1 min 17 sec
Through the millennia we as a society have learned the best way to govern the people is for the people to govern themselves. Today, in this tradition, we travel from our homes and businesses across the county; citizens, staff, and those elected converge on this chamber to work as one community united and indivisible by nearly every measure. Each of us arrives as individuals with unique ideas and experiences but all with a need or, in a spirit of goodwill, to fulfill the needs of others.
Citizens request assistance and offer their concerns and we are ever grateful for their interest and for their trust in the process. Staff provides invaluable expertise in their particular field and we truly appreciate their continued service. Elected officials listen, debate, and choose the path forward for us all out of a sincere desire to serve and honor the people of Osceola County while shaping its future. We all offer our thanks in that often thankless task.
When we leave this chamber this evening let us carry with us this same spirit of service and goodwill tomorrow and every day that follows.
This is how we assemble to serve and to govern, ourselves.
12 June 2014 – Wilkes-Barre (PA) City Council
Justin Vacula: 600 words - 3 min 3 sec
We come here to do the business of local government. Government officials have pledged to improve the quality of this community and are entrusted with doing so.
As we gather, we are reminded that although we have differences we are linked by our common humanity. When we work together to move our community forward in a spirit of mutual respect and common decency, we showcase what is best about our community, our state, and our nation.
We embrace many traditions and represent many demographics. We are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, humanists, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans, Pagans, unaffiliated, uncertain, and so many other things. We are young and old and everything in between. We represent many races and nationalities. We identify as libertarian, liberal, progressive, and conservative.
To be sure, we do not agree about everything and we often feel fiercely protective of what we do believe. But there is one thing on which we all agree. We share the goal of making our community the best place it can be. We unite here today with that noble aim and common purpose.
Citizens and government officials ought to enter meetings with a healthy dose of humility and doubt – being receptive to the ideas of others and having the willingness to change any and all of their beliefs given good reason, argument, and evidence. We ought to seek and welcome challenges to our beliefs. We should be concerned about whether our beliefs are justified and true.
Let us not have intellectual arrogance – outright dismissing the ideas of our detractors and declaring that our beliefs are non-negotiable, not up for debate or revision. Let us remember that our beliefs inform our actions and, because of this, often translate into real-world impact – having the potential to help or harm others. Let informed reason, evidence, and argument inform discourse not only at city council meetings, but also in all aspects of our lives. Demand good reasons, arguments, and evidence when people present claims. Thoroughly consider perspectives of those with whom you disagree.
For if we happen to discard our cherished beliefs, we make intellectual progress. While it may be difficult to admit being wrong or break away from tradition, changing our beliefs so that we perceive the world more accurately is a huge benefit – a sign of growth and maturity.
Let us remember horrid traditions in this community and nation which were justified mostly on the basis of ‘it was always done this way’ including coal mining which offered workers – boys and men who would work in extremely dangerous conditions – little to no protection. As we progress as a community and species, we make moral progress and break from tradition. Tradition alone is no justification for belief.
It is people, although they often disagree on matters they view as important, who come together to make change in our communities. It is through action, at local and even larger levels, by which we progress. It is through passionate debate, although it may seem uncomfortable, by which we challenge our own perspectives and learn from others – sometimes changing our own beliefs when there is good reason to do so.
It is my hope that at this council meeting and others – and even encounters in everyday life – that we work together to make change in our communities. It is my hope that we challenge ourselves and others to improve our quality of life. It is my hope that respect, when deserved, is extended to others. It is my hope that good argument, evidence, and reason guides the decisions of all within and outside of this room. Thank you.
10 June 2014 - Portage (MI) City Council
Tim Earl: 300 words - 1 min 50 sec
In any diverse setting, prayer is by nature a divisive act. A public appeal to one god ignores and
marginalizes all of those who believe in another god, or no god at all. While the City of Portage may
have looked pretty homogeneous 50 years ago, today on my short street of 13 houses, we have families
from many different cultures and traditions including Christians, Jews, atheists, Muslims, Hindus, and
I ask you to remember that you serve all of these citizens, and to avoid infringing upon the rights of any
group in favor of another. Wherever we say our prayers, or if we choose not to say them at all, we are
all a part of this community, and we all want to see it thrive.
And so I ask you to set aside any differences you may have and work together for the common good.
The different perspective each of you provides makes a positive contribution to the good governance of
our community. Diversity of opinion makes any group, including this council and this city, stronger.
I ask you to excel in your role as leaders by demonstrating an unwavering commitment to hearing all
sides of the issues that come before you and respecting those who have the courage to disagree or
provide alternative proposals.
Democracy does not mean a tyranny of the majority. If we ignore minority viewpoints, we foster
division and dissent within the community, which only grows worse as demographics change.
It makes no difference if your inspiration comes from the bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita,
the Guru Granth Sahib, or Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason. We may have different beliefs regarding an
afterlife, but our goals for this life should be the same: the peace and prosperity of our community.
http://mediacenter.portagemi.gov/Video/2/0/455 (begins at 2 min)
2 June 2014 – Wheaton (IL) City Council
Ted Utchen: 97 words - 1 min
Let us rise each morning, and strive each day, to do only that which brings happiness and joy to others, and avoid doing things that cause others hurt and pain.
Let us use our minds and our reason to encourage behavior based on the mutuality and reciprocity inherent in human relationships, and let us always respect the dignity and worth of each other.
And let us, above all, love one another, not to obtain rewards for ourselves now or hereafter or to avoid punishment, but rather always to bring each other contentment and peace.
So be it.
5 May 2014 – TOWN OF GREECE, NEW YORK v. GALLOWAY ET AL.
SCOTUS Blog Coverage of the case and the decision
4 April 2014 – Tampa (FL) City Council
David Tolliver: 641 words - 3 min 22 sec
We journey to the new world
In search of better days
And if you were to somehow come
I’m sure you’ll change your ways
So I have a proposition for you
I see you owe an awful lot the state
Well, I can make arrangements
To have such numbers erased
Because it’s true, I could use more men like you
To help with triangular trade…
But You Won’t Be My Slave
You’ll just by chance work off your debts
Until this sum is paid”
The Willy Lynch Doctrines original intent was to suppress riots amongst slaves in anticipation of the Foreseeable war to come for generations to follow;
To break the will of Human beings from being human;
To create a class war between smokescreens and shields;
And to maintain power with the powerful and keep the power from the powerless
But there is no such thing as a powerless Human!
As an aftermath of wicked tactics
Willy Lynch is a historical personification that
Wickedness Wins Wars
For Walls are Smart
Smart tactics of warfare
Illusions shielding that which is not there
Screening the illusions that wickedness will lead you to believe;
Willy Lynch had a methodology of creating walls between those who weren’t free
But You see, it didn’t start with slave, it started with the need for free labor
A selfless barter of time
A promise of something greater to make you leave old worlds behind
A false concept that it took your labor plus someone else’s power to provide
And evolution of wicked tactics over the years has allowed this concept to survive
The poor were never properly equipped with the script
Even white trash was granted white privilege
And once used it as leverage
Until the systematic leverage shifted
Supplying the very new demand to
Keep the mass consumers impoverished
And ignorance has long since became best friend to democratic injustices
Organizations like Equifax or the IRS
Overcrowded Corporations under paying the plantations
Management positions help to manage the distinction
Cost of living always rises past the price of your extinction
But Because we pay you minimum wage
We wont call it “Slave”
You’ll work your 40 hours plus
Until you’re in your grave
And Debt keeps you on ball and chain
ALL in slavery’s name
For the wicked will win every time we play the games they wrote the rules to
Don’t Let 4 scores fool you
40 acres and a mule you
Said it not 7 but 70 times 7 to forgive
Why give them benefit of the doubt
We gave them 490 plus years of foolishness to abolish the embellishment of our forgiveness
Since they 1492’d you
Trail of tears twisting from tracks of railways built by yellow railroad workers
Red skin reservations to gamble with your lives
Holocaust commemorations in memory of the 6 million plus
Plus the dictator looked like the very people he despised
Northern Eastern South African Apartheid
Genocide is genocide
It began long ago with the slavery of the mind
Racism is a tactic that those in command use to keep us blind
So don’t tell me it’s a color war
What is black and white
And red all over?
The signatures of W2s in blood signing away your lives
An indenture is a contract that will keep you on the climb
While digging the very grave beneath you deeper as you rise
Statistics or even definitions will present the argument that there are exceptions to the wicked ways of slave owners original intentions with the terms and conditions of contract living
I just don’t want to be indentured until I am in dentures barking louder than my bite
I just don’t want to say that I’m free just to say I’m free when I’m still a slave in my own mind.”
3 March 2014 - Arizona State House of Representatives
Juan Mendez: 310 words - 1 min 40 sec
In keeping with the spirit of the Opening Prayer during which we make a petition honoring our most sacred beliefs, I share with you a poem I adapted after hearing it from someone I respect — a prayer from my Humanist worldview that appeals to all our common humanness.
Today I ask for us all
the grace to shout
the grace to shout when it hurts,
even though silence is expected of us,
And the grace to listen when others shout
though it be painful to hear,
The grace to object, to protest, when we feel, taste or observe injustice
believing that even the unjust and arrogant
are human nonetheless
and therefore are worthy of strong efforts to reach them.
Do not choose a path that leads to the heart of despair
but choose to fill yourself with courage and understanding,
Choose to be that person who knows very well
when the moment has come to protest
I ask for us all the grace to be angry
when the weakest are the first to be exploited
and the trapped are squeezed for their meager resources,
when the most deserving are the last to thrive,
and the privileged demand more privilege.
I ask that we seek the inspiration we find inside each other to make our voices heard
when we have something that needs to be said,
something that rises to our lips despite the fear that was created in hopes to silence us,
to make us feel unwelcomed.
Audre Lorde, writer and civil rights activist asked us,
To remember that when we are silent we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
And so in closing I ask for us all to have the grace to listen when the many finally rise to speak and their words are an agony for us.
13 February 2014 - Pensacola (FL) City Council
David Suhor: 337 words - 2 min 16 sec
Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. Tonight I would like to ask you not to bow your heads, but to look around at the women and men here in this moment, sharing this experience of coming together to improve our city. As we work to solve the problems we face, I won’t appeal to any god favored by the majority. No, I appeal to you, to dedicate your energy to the task before us as human beings sharing the goal of a fairer, more loving community.
I’m not here to ask the blessings of any common deity, but to call upon our common duty to love and honor each other, setting aside our individual beliefs for the greater good. In that light, I’d like to invoke the words of some others who shared my view. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I contemplate a sovereign reverence. That act of the whole American people, which declared that their legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said, “We are a very religiously diverse country. All should be treated equally, so I don’t see how you could compose a prayer that is acceptable to all.” Even Jesus is said to have condemned public prayer, in Matthew, chapter six, saying, “Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy father, which is in secret.”
So today I begin this meeting differently, not by praying to the spirit of any one religion. Instead I ask that we invoke the spirit of community, thereby welcoming all our citizens. I’m not here to lift up my god above yours, but to call forth that most universal commandment: that we love our neighbors as ourselves. As Carl Sagan said, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”
Let this invocation begin a new tradition, where the nonbelievers among us feel as loved, valued, and honored here as any believer ever has. Thank you.
4 February 2014 - Oak Harbor (WA) City Council
Robert Ray: 231 words - 1 min 12 sec
Thank you Mayor and council members for this opportunity to provide an inspirational start to your meeting. Normally you would bow your heads for an invocation in this chamber, but I am going to ask that you raise your eyes and think about a few things today. When this body comes together to govern, they do so with the consent of the citizens of Oak Harbor. Oak Harbor is a very diverse community with many different views and opinions.
My Secular Humanism, which is to say, reason and science, lead me to believe that we, as humans, can meet the challenges of these differences and create a society with less dissension and leave a better, more equal culture for future generations. It is incumbent upon this council to make the best decisions for the community. In this regard, I ask that you use reason, wisdom and empathy in your deliberations today.
To take into account the implications your decisions will have now and in the future. We should all plant an acorn, even though we may not live to hear the wind rush through its leaves or the joyous laughter of children playing in the comfort of its shade. We plant the seed for the benefit of future generations. In the words of Bertrand Russell, in order to do our part “One must care about a world one will not see.
5 January 2014 – Boston (MA) Mayor’s Inaugural Interfaith Prayer Service
Greg Epstein: 279 words
Mayor-Elect Walsh, and distinguished and honored guests of all backgrounds and beliefs:
It is my great honor, on behalf of the Humanist, secular, and non-theistic community, to share this poem, “To Be of Use,” by contemporary Massachusetts poet Marge Piercy, in honor of the important work you and all of us will soon be called to do.
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
26 September 2013 - New Orleans (LA) City Council Meeting
Harry Greenberger: 188 words - 2 min
Secular humanism is not a religion, except in the sense described by Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln said, “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion.” Each of us is a minority. It might be race, religion, sexual orientation or nationality, but we’re all gathered here today, both religious and secular, I hope with a willingness to accommodate diversity and I’m sure with the shared belief that we must treat our fellow human beings with respect and dignity.
My invocation is to you, the city council, asking that you utilize the potential within yourselves and each other and apply your talents and your experience to address the problems and opportunities facing our community today. I invoke your ability to govern amid conflicting interests and issues, your sense of the true needs and welfare of the New Orleans people, your attention to a solution to rampant crime, your ability to work together in harmony even when there is honest disagreement. Let us commit together to inculcate the concepts of justice, equality, freedom, reason and compassion, into ourselves and our actions. Amen.
23 July 2013 - Portage (MI) City Council
Tim Earl: 402 words - 2 min 13 sec
As you gather here today to see to the business of our city, I ask you to consider who you are here to serve. Not a deity, but the diverse population of Portage. This includes not only Christians of many sects, but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, non-believers, and others.
As Aristotle said over 2,000 years ago, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Our community is made stronger by the presence of different cultures, traditions, and viewpoints. The freedom each of us enjoys to follow our own spiritual path with no government interference, established by our constitution over 200 years ago, has served as a shining example for the rest of the world, and has contributed to the astonishing success of our nation. When we forget or ignore this principle of inclusion, we turn our backs on the wisdom of the founding fathers and tarnish their legacy, weakening our society in the process.
We don’t have to respect each other’s views. But we do have to respect each other’s right to hold those views and practice their beliefs without fear of persecution, as long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others.
But the differences between us are really not that significant. Nearly every religion claims that its holy book serves as the basis for human morality, and yet they’re remarkably similar. Even atheists, with no holy book of our own, share many of the same values as believers. Whereas a Christian may value all life as a gift from God, an atheist values life just as much because he believes that it’s all we have, and all that we’ll ever be. In the end, our goal is the same: to enrich the lives of others and make the world a better place for everyone. It’s our common humanity, not ancient texts, that unites us all and guides us to treat each other with dignity and respect.
And so I ask you to consider that common humanity as you deliberate tonight.
Because in this chamber, it doesn't matter what Jesus would do, or Buddha or Mohamed, or even Jefferson or Lincoln. What matters is what’s best for the citizens of Portage today and in the years ahead. Let that be the principle which guides your decisions.
http://mediacenter.portagemi.gov/Video/2/124/389 (begins at 2 min)
21 May 2013 – Arizona State House of Representatives
Juan Mendez: 239 words - 1 min 17 sec
Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you to take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.
This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, as my Secular Humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love…
Carl Sagan once wrote, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” There is, in the political process, much to bear. In this room, let us cherish and celebrate our shared humanness, our shared capacity for reason and compassion, our shared love for the people of our state, for our Constitution, for our democracy — and let us root our policymaking process in these values that are relevant to all Arizonans regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. In gratitude and in love, in reason and in compassion, let us work together for a better Arizona.
2 April 2013 – Wilmington (NC) City Council Meeting
Han Hills: 66 words - 36 sec
As the council gathers here to make laws affecting the people of Wilmington I ask you to lift your heads, to open your eyes and open your hearts. Our most serious duty is to look to the community we share, the examples we make, and the legacies we leave. That should be our greatest, most courageous and noble intention. Let this be our most constant success.
30 August 2012 – Tulsa (OK) City Council Meeting
Dan Nerren: 200 words - 1 min 35 sec
Let us open our hearts to the welfare of all people in our community by respecting the inherent dignity and worth of each person, and realize our differences of race, religion, and party affiliation are merely superficial. Our common humanity unites us all, and may we recognize that through our interdependence we share a common fate.
In order to achieve the greatest good as citizens of Tulsa, it is important for us to maintain an open mind, and honor and respect the human rights of each other. We should consider the benefit provided by differing perspectives, and be willing to question assumptions that serve only to obstruct our path to progress.
Rather than bowing our heads and closing our eyes in deference, we should open our eyes widely to face the reality that confronts us, without losing sight of our ideals of what we could achieve. Through the prudent use of reason and compassion we can ensure the success of this great city. Lastly, we must remember that in the face of adversity we need not look above for answers, but instead recognize the proven potential within ourselves and in each other to overcome any challenges we face. Thank you.
9 August 2012 - Escambia (FL) County Board of County Commissioners
David Suhor: 219 words - 1 min 46 sec
[NOTE: David shared on the YouTube page--linked below--that he never made claims about being a Christian musician, but he let his credentials lead the Board to believe what they would. Regardless of his faith or faithlessness, we are glad to share his invocation here. Thanks David!]
Mother, father, gods of ALL people,
we come today in our humble way to shape a small part of your creation
Gathering to a task, in your diverse and glorious presence,
together we invoke your unique blessings and your life essence
May the efforts of this council blend
the justness of Allah with the wisdom of Odin
May Mithra the everlasting ground them with the grace of mother Gaia
May Yahweh forgive their shortcomings and Beddru foresee their salvation
MAKE light their mission, Brahma and Dionysus
and imbue each decision with the mercy of Isis
Whatever your virtues, name or form,
may we be worthy of this wholly equal assemblage
BaHA and Elohim we beseech you Krishna and Ek Onkar, come
illuminate our civic path by moon, water, earth and sun
And we praise YOU, Jehovah of Christ, Huītzilopōchtli, and Ba'al
for the sanguine sacrifice that frees us all
And for the bounty of reason, science and logic, we thank the ONE deity
none of us knows, that of humanist, atheist and agnostic
Divine love, lead us, enlightened by Buddha and Eshu, empowered by Thetan spirits
that we may govern with the wisdom and the good of ALL gods of our nation
PLEASE impart our humble congregation
with prudence, prosperity and peace this day
and so we pray, AMEN
July 2012 - Portage (MI) City Council
Tim Earl: 394 words
I represent no congregation or denomination. But I appreciate the invitation to give this invocation on behalf of the non-believers in our city, which includes those who do not subscribe to any particular religious group and those who deny the existence of a supreme being altogether.
It’s easy to forget or pretend that we don’t exist because we are a small minority. But polls indicate that we are the fastest growing religious demographic in America right now.
We include doctors, lawyers, teachers, and people of all walks of life who live moral lives and contribute to the welfare of our community. As a veteran I can even assure you that there are indeed atheists in foxholes, contrary to popular belief.
And so, while I would prefer that the practice of invocations be discontinued, I recognize that that is unlikely to happen here in the near future, so I thank you again for this opportunity to represent a minority viewpoint.
And so, without appealing to a higher power which I do not believe exists, I ask that we put forth our best effort to listen intently, resolve our differences, reach common goals, and advance the progress and prosperity of our community.
Because with or without prayer, that's what needs to be done - and prayers don't pay the bills, maintain the roads, or do any of the work that this council and our city manager do so effectively on our behalf. As human beings, all we can do is use the talents and wisdom which nature, education, and experience have given us to overcome the challenges we face.
And when the task before you is difficult, I ask that you do not look upward for guidance from some higher power which is most likely an outgrowth of our own fear of mortality, but instead look inward to your own sense of morality and reason, and also look outward to the members of this community who come forward to lend their own assistance and support.
For only through a spirit of cooperation and unity can we continue to make the City of Portage such a wonderful place to live, work, and raise our families.
In closing, it’s important to remember that you don’t need a god to hope, to care, to love, or to live. And we certainly don’t need one to help conduct city business.
5 January 2011 – Grand Junction (CO) City Council
Joe Alaimo: 304 words - 2 min
Public services are those that are soles essentials of modern lives that, for moral reasons, [are] considered fundamental human rights. It’s the day to day job of a public servant to provide those rights to as many as possible. The right to clean water and the right to live in dignity and peace are examples of these.
These services are not belief-based. They are the same for all men and women, all religions, and all walks of lives.
Sometimes, public servants, face ingratitude or hostility when they disagree with members of the public and that is unfortunate.
The served must never forget to be grateful for those who choose public service. One can disagree with a policy but one needs to do so with civility and with dignity so that we may share the greater goal of living together in a free society.
For their part, the public servant must never fail to respect the dignity of those with different opinions or beliefs. It would be easier to govern in a world with one mind but the price would be too great.
So today, I thank you, and the 16% of non-religious citizens thank you, for accepting an atheist to give what has historically been a religious invocation.
But there is one more thing I would ask: Many believers and non-believers alike dream of a day when the strength to take on the task of public service need not be found by bowing the head, closing the eyes, and praying for it. Instead, we hope for a day when whomever chooses to serve, in whatever capacity, can lift their head, open their eyes, and with compassion and reason find strength in the hands, hearts, and eyes of their brothers and sisters.
One day, perhaps today, we will have reached that greater goal.
7 December 2009 - City of South Portland (ME) Inauguration Ceremony
Andrew Lovley: 238 words - 1 min 32 sec
Today we have come together to mark a new beginning of governance in the city of South Portland. What lies ahead is an untold opportunity to affirm our ability, and our responsibility to serve the greater good - of which there is no higher purpose.
We must open our hearts to the welfare of all people within our community by respecting the inherent dignity within all of us, and realize that our differences of race, religion, and party affiliation are only superficial. We are united by our common humanity, and through our interdependence we share a common fate. In order to achieve our greatest capabilities as citizens and leaders of this community, it is important for us to maintain an open mind. Let us consider the benefit provided by differing perspectives, and be willing to question assumptions that only serve to obstruct our path to progress.
Rather than bowing our heads and closing our eyes in denial or deference, we should open our eyes widely to accept the reality that confronts us, without losing sight of our ideals of what it could be. Through the prudent use of reason and compassion we can ensure the success of this great city. Lastly, we must remember that in the face of adversity we need not look above for answers, but instead recognize the proven potential within ourselves and in each other to overcome any challenges that may arise. Thank you.
28 July 2009 - Cobb County (GA) Commission
Ed Buckner: 534 words - 4 min 4 sec
Thank you and certainly anybody can stand if they wish. For any of you who are bowing your heads, I’d respectfully recommend against doing that as well. I’m Ed Buckner, a Cobb County resident and taxpayer, and the national president of American Atheists. According to my dictionary, an invocation is done to call on a higher power and since we all know that the only supreme power in Cobb County is the citizenry, I speak now in the name of the 700,000 people who live in this county, especially the majority (and yes, I do mean over half) of those 700,000 who are not members of any church, mosque, temple, or other religious organization.
And even more especially, I speak in the name of the overwhelming majority, including anyone I've ever met who do not want their government to decide for them regarding anything regarding religion or any gods. I speak as well for those political leaders who despair that success in politics cannot be achieved without hypocritical piety from politicians and who would prefer to run for office and to govern based on competence and political philosophy rather than on beliefs, real or pretended, in any supernatural beings.
I speak, oddly enough, on behalf of Southern Baptists who know their own faith and message which declares in chapter 17 that Church and State should be separate and that the church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. I speak in the name of all Americans who know our history and who know for example that in 1797, the US Senate voted unanimously in favor of, and that President John Adams then signed, a treaty with Tripoli that specified that the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.
I invoke all of these people to urge Chairman Samuel S. Olens, Commissioner Helen Golen, Commissioner Bob Ott, even though he is not here, and my own Commissioner, Woody Thompson, and the thousands of dedicated employees to work hard ethically, and honestly, on our behalf, to represent us well, [in] all things unrelated to religion of course. And to please avoid the arrogance of thinking you can or ever should express any religious beliefs other than your own. For any of you who are made uncomfortable by my remarks, who think this is more a provocation than an invocation, who would prefer not to hear such comments at a meeting you came to expecting government, instead of religion and philosophy, please join me in urging that the Cobb County commissioners and planning commissioners cease to open their meetings with public religious invocations of any kind.
For Christians such exercises are a plain violation of Matthew 6:5-6 and, more importantly, they are for all of us an insult to our right to choose our own religion and religious representatives for ourselves, if we want any at all. And these invocations are a violation of the letter and intent of the Constitution of the state of Georgia, of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and of the 14th Amendment, ratified exactly 141 years ago today. Go and sin no more. Thank you.
1 August 2008 - University of North Dakota Army ROTC Commissioning Ceremony
Cadet Julia F. Cicci: 363 words
Commander, Cadre, staff, families, friends, believers and nonbelievers; we have come together to represent our diverse cultures and beliefs on this beautiful and prestigious day to honor the past, present and, now, future, leaders of the United States Army. For this invocation, I come to you, not as a chaplain or any other person of God, but, as a U.S. Army Soldier in hopes that we can take a moment for ourselves and reflect on the true meaning of today’s University of North Dakota Army ROTC’s commissioning ceremony.
Let us recognize the devotion and sacrifices that the cadets have made and will continue to make throughout what I hope will be long, prosperous and fulfilling careers as commissioned Army officers. Yet, I imagine these sacrifices could not have been accomplished without the love and support from all of you. Therefore, we wish to continue to invoke your strength, love and wisdom so that our future leaders will always know that they have the continual and undivided support of the United States of America behind them throughout their entire lives. So, I now ask, on this grand day, August 1, 2008, let us unite as one today in celebration, and recognize the exemplary and dignified achievements each cadet has earned.
May they invoke the power and courage to remain forever faithful to the U.S. Army values in which they will bear true allegiance to our nation’s most sacred document, the U.S. Constitution, as well as maintain the integrity and honor necessary to lead this great nation to victory.
We should also take a brief moment to remember the family members and friends that could not be here with us today and may we never forget the fallen soldiers who died for us so we didn’t have to; we are grateful and forever in debt.
It has been a true honor serving with these cadets. I thank you for your magnanimous service and abiding dedication to one of our nation’s finest military branches, the United States Army. On behalf of everyone here, let me wish all of you all the happiness and success in your future endeavors. Thank you for your time; please be seated.
18 October 2004 – Cape Coral (FL) City Council Meeting
Tom Clark: 153 words
What makes this country great is not that everyone thinks alike but the diversity of its people.
We are gathered today, both religious and secular members of our community, with the shared belief that we must treat each other with dignity and respect.
In this invocation I don't ask you to bow your heads, but to look up at what you can accomplish by working together in a civil manner.
I don't ask you to close your eyes, but to keep them open wide to the problems that we face as a city.
With your talents and insight you can lead this community to a better future.
As you work together on behalf of all who live in this city, may you draw strength and encouragement from one another through compassion and reason.
Remember, being a member of the majority doesn't necessarily make you right, just part of a group that thinks alike.
29 July 2004 – Tampa (FL) City Council Meeting
Michael Harvey: 353 words
An invocation is an appeal for guidance from a supernatural power, but it is not only that. It is also a call, a petition, to positive action on behalf of and for a diverse citizenry. On behalf of Atheists of Florida, I would like to express our gratitude in being invited to deliver today's invocation.
We are committed to the separation of state and church as defined by the United States Constitution. It is the core value of that remarkable and visionary document to protect the human-derived rights of all people in the continuous struggle for equal opportunities to pursue a safe and decent quality of life.
When an invocation takes on the form of public prayer, it is also a violation of the very principles upon which our country and Constitution were founded. Although we are dismayed that the practice of public prayer by governing bodies charged with representing all citizens still continues in violation of the Constitution, we also recognize that this practice has become deeply embedded in the national psyche.
Elected and appointed leaders who wish to seek the guidance of a deity can do so in private, as is their right. But not in the public arena where the establishment of religion is an assured end-result.
History - that ever-unfolding, ever-flowering story of human civilization - teaches us that the rights and accomplishments of humanity are the results of its past struggles, and that the road less traveled is many times the highest path to human progress. We therefore invoke this council and all of our leaders to be guided and inspired by the invaluable lessons of history, the honest insights of science, the guileless wisdom of logic, and the heart and soul of our shared humanity - compassion and tolerance.
So rather than clasping your hands, bowing your heads and closing your eyes, open your arms to that which truly makes us strong - our diversity. Raise your heads and open your eyes to recognize and fully understand the problems before you and know that ultimately, solutions to human problems can come only from human beings.
25 March 2004 – Charleston (SC) City Council Meeting
Herb Silverman: 305 words
Thank you for this opportunity to "invoke" a minority point of view. Each of us is a minority in some way. It might be race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, or any other aspect in which we may be regarded as different. Each of us is also part of some majority. It is when we wear our majority hats that we need to be most mindful of how we treat others. We must pledge our best efforts to help one another, and to defend the rights of all of our citizens and residents.
What divides us is not so much our religious differences in this diverse country, but the degree of commitment we have to equal freedom of conscience for all people.
We are gathered today, both religious and secular members of our community, with the shared belief that we must treat our fellow human beings with respect and dignity.
In this invocation, I don't ask you to close your eyes, but to keep your eyes constantly open to the serious problems that city government can solve or improve. I don't ask you to bow your heads, but to look up at what you can accomplish by applying your considerable talents and experience to the issues that confront us.
As you work together on behalf of all who live in this city, may you draw strength and sustenance from one another through reason and compassion. I'd like to close in a bipartisan manner by quoting from two presidents I greatly admire--one a Republican and the other a Democrat.
First, the Republican:
When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion.
- Abraham Lincoln
And now, the Democrat:
It's remarkable how much you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.
- Harry S. Truman