Another week at the Apopka City Commission meeting, and the issue of invocations refuses to go away. More than likely as a response to the “invocation” read at the last meeting by a member of the Central Florida Freethought Community, the City has placed on this week’s agenda, for Public Hearing, Resolution 2015-24 – Invocation Policy for City of Apopka Meetings. The 5 page resolution ‘s title includes: “regarding a ceremonial opening invocation and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at Council meetings”. Claiming to seek a diversity of viewpoints, faiths and ideas, and inviting speakers to reflect upon shared ideals and common end and offer inclusion opportunities for all faiths and non-believers, the Resolution sets forth policy and procedures for the one minute invocation item leading off each Commission meeting.
As it turns out, many government entities across Central Florida are facing this same dilemma, because the CFFC, emboldened by a 2014 Supreme Court Ruling, will not go away. Their bullying tactics have led many cities to review their invocation policies; several have offered different approaches. After a Winter GardenCity commission meeting in September of 2014, where the Mayor forcibly ejected a man from the meeting for not standing during the Pledge of Alligence, the City was forced to adopt an invocation policy in March of 2015. Their policy is nearly identical (in fact word for word except for the name of the City) to the policy being reviewed by our City this week. And these two policies are similar to policies developed by cities across the country.. I guess it’s some kind of legalise template.
Another approach was taken by the City of Maitland. The CFFC approached them about offering an invocation. At first the City offered no response to the group, but after a more strongly worded request and possibly a thinly veiled threat of a lawsuit, Maitland City officials choose to forego their invocation, opting for a moment of silence, while they take some time to re-evaluate their invocation policy, on the advice of their city attorney Cliff Shepard, who is also Apopka’s city Attorney.
The thing is, with cities and other government entities now scrambling to develop inclusive invocation policies that celebrate diversity (now there is a phrase only a liberal could love), they are now dancing to the tune of these humanist, atheist, bullying groups and taking precious time away from PRESSING city business. These policies don’t see the forest for the trees, and in fact, can be like ringing the dinner bell for every group out there to come in and have their say. Who is actually prepared to listen to an invocation from a Satanist group (like they did in Lake City FL last year), or from a Wicaan group, or from any fill-in-the blank group? Because if you support these policies, then you MUST be prepared to defend their right to have their say, no matter how hateful, despicable or deplorable you find their words. And if you are not prepared to defend their rights and still want a policy, you better brace yourself for a full assault of lawsuits and bad publicity that will surely follow, such as what Brevard County is now facing.
I have to ask, is any government meeting the proper venue for some social experiment on diversity or inclusion or to show the world how tolerant we can be? I’m wondering if those government entities that simply offer a moment of silence to begin a meeting, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, aren’t on to something. I can’t imagine how many man hours will be devoted to crafting and maintaining a database of groups and their representatives as outlined in the Resolution. We all have the right to be offended, and who is to say that the Christian won’t be offended by the muslim prayer, or the Buddist won’t be offended by the Jewish prayer. The chilling City guidelines as to what the invocation should say as part of the resolution sickens me to my core.
What I would like to ask is that the City postpone voting on this Resolution until both citizens and City officials have more time to really study this one. Would two more weeks really make that much of a difference? The implications of a rushed decision or knee-jerk reaction to bullies will be far-reaching and could, in the long run damage this City. Perhaps offering a moment of silence while this issue is being researched is not out of the question. What do YOU think?