The Hickory Humanist Alliance (HHA) has been notified by the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners that invocations will no longer be given at their meetings following the adoption of a new "moment of silence" policy on Monday. We commend the Board for taking this action, and we hope this experience serves as a blueprint for other municipalities and concerned citizens dealing with the contentious issue of religious invocations at government meetings.
While the Supreme Court has ruled that sectarian prayers at government meetings are sometimes permissible, the recent experiences in Rowan and Lincoln County demonstrate that the practice can be discriminatory, divisive, and distracting to our communities. HHA believes the best way to both protect our religious freedom and preserve the separation of Church and State is to keep sectarian religious prayer out of government meetings. However, if invocations are allowed then they must be open to all. That's why we had planned to deliver this solemn and respectful humanist invocation at the next Lincoln County meeting per the inclusive policy they adopted in May:
As this Board convenes to do the important business of local government I ask you to lift your heads, to open your eyes, and to open your hearts. We are reminded that in our differences there is great strength. We do not all agree on everything. Yet we are linked by our common humanity and our shared origin. When we work together to move our community forward in a spirit of mutual respect and common decency, we showcase what is best about ourselves. There is one thing on which we all agree: We share the goal of making this community the best place it can be. I call on this Board to unite here today around that noble aim and common purpose, and I appeal to you to take care to ensure that all of your decisions are inspired by compassion and guided by knowledge.
In honor of not delivering our invocation on August 17 (6:30 - 7:30 pm ET), we encourage everyone to use the meeting time to do some good for someone other than yourself or your clan. Join our event if you need a reminder. And if you need some ideas for what to do, please consider a charitable contribution through Foundation Beyond Belief. We'd like to thank Commissioners Alex Patton and Cecelia Martin for proposing the "moment of silence" policy, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, and the Secular Coalition for North Carolina for their valuable assistance. We also want to extend our warmest thanks to the secular residents of Lincoln County that supported and encouraged us in this effort and to Duston Barto and Tony Brown, as well as the entire Foothills Interfaith Assembly. We hope that Chairman Mitchem's inflammatory comments denigrating Muslims and atheists, and his fellow commissioners, are not what everyone remembers about the last few months in Lincoln County.
"Prayer is not one of our remedies; it depends on what one is praying for. We consider prayer nothing more than a fervent wish; consequently the merit and worth of a prayer depend upon what the fervent wish is."
Our fervent wish is that you take a few minutes to do some good for someone else on August 17th. Please join and share our Facebook event to show your support.