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Alabama city council won't let Wiccan lead public prayer

June 27, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
Here's the fly in the ointment for city councils who want to begin their meetings with a public prayer: sometimes you have to let witches give the invocation.

The AP reports that the Rev. Blake Kirk, Priest of the Oak, Ash and Thorn Tradition of Wicca, has been disinvited from giving the opening prayer at the city council meeting in Huntsville, Ala.

Kirk gave the opening prayer in January without any problems, according to the AP. Apparently word got out before the most recent meeting, though, and local citizenry called the council office to complain.

"It is not right," Kirk told Huntsville TV station WHNT-TV. "The city cannot pick and choose what faiths they want to support and allow to speak and give the prayer."

Kirk is exactly right. In fact, that is pretty much what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May in the case of Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway. The Supreme Court said a Christian sectarian prayer before a public meeting is constitutional and that city governments do not have to go to extraordinary effort to find representatives of all religions to lead a prayer before a meeting.

On the other hand, town councils presumably do have to include representatives of minority religions who are active in the community or who have requested to be included in the rotation of regular prayer chaplains.

Kirk is a clergyman in Huntsville and has as much right to be represented in the practice of opening city council meetings with prayer as do the local Baptist minister or the local Catholic priest.

If this goes to court, the Huntsville city council will likely lose and lose badly. Either they let the Wiccan priest give the invocation in rotation with other clergy members or they must do away altogether with the practice of prayer before meetings.

 
 

Article Comments

(7)

JackAaah

Jul-01-14 10:38 AM

...pretty soon we could have the actual meeting start the next evening after getting all these inclusive prayers in on the first evening. Stylish....

AndreaJohnson

Jun-30-14 6:22 PM

Sectarian prayer at city council meetings IS constitutional. It's just that city leaders have to allow other people's sectarian prayer too. The Baptist minister can pray in Jesus's name, but the Wiccan minister can pray in the name of the Great Horned God.

keyzgirl62

Jun-30-14 1:49 PM

I think it will all boil down to "Let's bow our heads in a moment of silence to observe our own religious leader". The more people pursue true freedom, the more caged they become.

AndreaJohnson

Jun-28-14 5:04 PM

I think that's what the Supreme Court approved. Going by their decision, they would approve of any respectful prayer given before the official start of the meeting, provided no one in the audience is pressured to join in and no suggestion is made that government officials will act differently towards those who leave or don't join in.

EarlyBird

Jun-28-14 8:50 AM

I have no problem with any human or Religion or belief as long as it is positive and helpful to the advancement of our civilization.

JackAaah

Jun-27-14 7:33 PM

some of us just worship at the altar of BigGovernment....

AndreaJohnson

Jun-27-14 2:18 PM

I believe the Supreme Court decision had something about decorum and respectful prayer. Presumably snake-handling and drinking blood from skulls would be deemed disruptive enough to be banned without causing too many legal headaches.

I also suspect that the local atheist who decides to mock those gathered there by referring to the deity as the "magic sky wizard," the "Flying Spaghetti Monster" or simply "Sky Daddy" would also be banned as disrespectful. It is certainly possible to deliver a respectful message wishing that the council will act wisely in the name of constitutional or humanistic principles without making a mockery of the proceedings.

The Wiccan priest WAS being respectful, however, and must be allowed to pray.

 
 

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