Please sign the petition to keep prayer out of Reno city counsel meetings: https://www.change.org/petitions/reno-city-council-keep-religion-out-of-public-city-council-meetings
On November 12, 2013 I was informed on the Freethinkers Facebook page that Religious leaders from various faiths in northern Nevada were meeting with Reno Mayor Bob Cashell Tuesday, asking him to bring back an invocation before city council meetings. I went to the meeting with a written letter of opposition and was joined by three other freethinkers. The mayor refused to listen to anyone and said it would have to be put on the agenda and go to the city councel. It was on the local television news and the Reno Gazette Journal. It was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. I say we must resist government instituting prayer at public meetings at all government levels. Here is the text I gave to the mayor:
The Supreme Court is hearing about town council prayer in Greece New York. I think any decision of adding prayer to city council meetings should wait until the Supreme Court has decided.
I question why it is necessary to add prayer or invocation to the city council meetings. Reno is a gambling city. Any Casino will let you pray openly to increase your chances of winning. Why, because prayer has no effect on the laws of chance.
What does prayer actually do? Prayer is more horizontal than vertical. Prayer is to influence those listening to the prayer. Why should people who came to address material concerns of city government be subjected to a religious message uttered to influence them? If the city council permits invocation before meetings, then it is participating in the spread of a religious message. Why should government meetings used to spread religious messages?
Certainly, the church groups do a good enough job of spreading religious messages without government assistance. And, there are many different religious messages to spread. By permitting prayer at meetings, the city council will be supporting religions that are willing to send a speaker to perform the prayer over religions not willing or able to send someone. Thus, the council will be favoring some religions involved with city government affairs fostering the perception that these are the favored religions of the city.
Consider the bait and switch tactic of having prayer before a city council meeting. Where is it in the city charter or for any elected or hired official to promote prayer? Nowhere! Now as a citizen, I come to a city council meeting expecting government business only to be subjected to a prayer from a religion I may not believe in. I was baited with city council meeting that affects a community issue, and find the topic switched to religious message. We do not elect government officials to provide religious messages. Instead of a prayer of invocation, what might better be read would be rules of order or some city law which all citizens should be influenced by.
City council meeting are functioning fine the way they are. There is no need to add religious messages to a system that is already functioning fine. Why would the city council want to add controversy? If religious groups want to pray before a meeting, let them pray before the meeting starts without call to order as a way to gain attention to a religious message. The problem lies with an official government call to order before the prayer. When call to order is enforced, there is sanctioned silence for the prayer to be delivered. It is not the city councils place to silence citizens to listen to prayer. Silence citizens to get on with government business. Religious messages are not government business.
This is the link to the Wall Street Journal article. They spelled my name incorrectly: http://online.wsj.com/article/APe781e582c252455495f995f142b3c3e7.html