Preston Smith: Lake Worth elected leaders walk out of commission meeting as atheist leads invocation

Jan 6, 2015

[cbc_video id=”64582″ volume=”30″ width=”640″ aspect_ratio=”16×9″ autoplay=”0″ controls=”1″]

 By Charles Keegan

Last Tuesday’s Lake Worth city commission meeting started as they all do. Then things changed.

As atheist Preston Smith approached the podium to lead the prayer – Mayor Pam Triolo and three city commissioners left the chambers.

More than 11,000  people have since seen the act on YouTube and it’s creating a buzz on forums and blogs. The mayor offered no explanation until today.

“I didn’t leave because Mr. Smith is an atheist, I left because of his alleged tweet.” Mayor Triolo said.


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43 comments on “Preston Smith: Lake Worth elected leaders walk out of commission meeting as atheist leads invocation

  • Jesus wept…

    Why not just stop this stupid Kumbaya nonsense, and do a number on the Constitution instead. Everyone’s happy. Or nothing at all. Americans are weird.

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  • ” Smith said over the phone that he thinks it was an act of pure discrimination against his beliefs. ”

    Did he really say this?

    I guess it would be hard to discriminate against non belief.

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  • This is stupid all the way around. The best thing to do is get rid of invocations at public and government gatherings all together. What is an invocation but a superstitious prayer? What are we invoking? All that ever needs to be said is, “Let’s get started.”

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  • 10
    ddw1959 says:

    I’ m happy he had the opportunity to say his bit. I would have liked it better if he’d said something inspiring, sensible, informative… anything but stand there and make word salad for a couple of minutes. I’m not sure if he was trying to be funny, sarcastic, ironic, or inclusive. His entire speech was disjointed and made no sense. Sad to see a chance go to waste.

    Also, what did the Mayor mean about an alleged twitter??

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  • Exactly. We got a secular invocation in Vancouver, Wa. done by an older local lady, and it was gracious and uplifting. This guy’s “campaign speech” was irrelevant and off-putting. If we non-theists can’t do better than this, then we shouldn’t even try.

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  • The best thing to do is get rid of invocations at public and government gatherings all together.

    I agree with this! Although our secular rights groups are making efforts toward this goal, there have been setbacks in the courts. Meanwhile, another strategy is in place that we see in this video. If one group presents their perspective in the invocation then all groups must have a right to do so. Even though I don’t like the particular invocation in this video, (I can’t bring myself to say the words, “Let us pray.” ~cringe~) still, it serves a good and useful purpose. When this ridiculous tradition of invocation comes to resemble a three ring circus that it surely will become, then there will be the tipping point where even the most sanctimonious holier than thou christian will say, “Enough. No more invocations at all!”

    We have seen this strategy work in the public schools in two ways. Some years back , on the day of a child’s birthday, the mom would bring to the class a birthday cake and drinks for all of the students that day. This started out simple in the beginning but over the course of a decade, as you may guess, it turned into an absurd display of one-upmanship by the moms of these children. Much time in class was wasted with this extravagance and not to mention the load of unhealthy sugar that was delivered to the kids (often against their own moms’ wishes). Again, there was a tipping point reached and an edict came down from the school administration saying that there would be no more birthday celebrations at all for the sake of the students’ health.

    The same strategy was used in schools for a reduction in the overkill Christmas decorations and every other activity that goes with it for the entire month of December. Once it was acknowledged that if one group could present their holiday traditions in the public school building, then everyone else should have the same right, then the classrooms and hallways came to resemble that chaotic three ring circus, then the administration handed down the edict- no more holiday shenanigans at all! This is also working to eliminate Christian self-entitlement with their displays on the town commons and town administration buildings.

    I think invocations are useless excruciating sentimentality (poetic types are welcome to lambaste me now and I’ll probably agree with the criticism!) and an inefficient waste of everyone’s time, but given the chance, I’d be the the first one to the front of the room to offer the best presentation of atheist, secular, humanist, naturalism viewpoints that I possibly could compose. If the whole invocation scene in this country turns into a three ring circus and then disappears for all eternity then so be it! Problem solved.

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  • 18
    parksje says:

    What’s with the weird prayer to “Mother Earth” for guidance? I really don’t want to replace the old bearded guy with some kind of Druid Earth mother. How about we just perform no religious invocations at all at public ceremonies?

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  • 19
    Mister says:

    The “media” (i.e., one reporter) was paraphrasing what Mr. Smith said. He very well could have used the word “belief” himself. And doing so in no way connotes an “agenda.” His views on religion are, in fact, what he believes.

    Methinks you’re a bit thin-skinned about a very innocuous word choice.

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  • I absolutely have the right to insist people I elect to public office be polite. What they do on their own time is up to them, but when they’re at work, they represent me. More over they have a responsibility to listen to what I have to say.

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  • Assuming Bonnies link is correct, I too would have to side with the Mayor on this one. Two points seem to be demonstrated (not proven) here.

    The first is that religious people, presumably the Mayor, are perfectly capable of behaving in a reasonable manner, in this case taking offense at something that is offensive.

    And, that people who are not religious, presumably Preston, are not all pillars of wisdom, and are capable behaving offensively.

    If the alleged tweet is from Preston, and that is what has upset the Mayor, then this has far less to do with praying, a waste of time no matter to whom, than it has to do with simple reaction to a somewhat misogynistic tweeting twit, albeit a godless one.

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  • 24
    Julian says:

    Thanks for the more correct definition, Chris.
    My favourite is Bill Maher’s: “…it’s like calling abstinence a sex position!”

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  • 25
    BurninMan says:

    I am amused because I was born in that very town. But, I agree that invocations should go away all together. Isn’t it enough to say, “Hello everyone. Let the meeting come to order” and nothing more? To be inclusive and non offensive is to do away with it all together.
    Having said that, I thought the ‘invocation’ was silly and I’ll-composed.. I get that he’s making a point, and I get why. I just didn’t like the composition at all.
    Starting with “Let us reflect,” for one thing would be better beginning.

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  • 26
    Vorpal says:

    As an atheist I was disgusted to hear, in the invocation, a call to prayer, mention of Mother Earth, Allah, Satan, Zeus Jesus, Buddha, Krishna Thor and other absurdities. Upon hearing of the deities the speaker invoked, I’d have had the urge to walk out myself. The invocation was an embarrassment and did a disservice to atheists.

    An atheist invocation, I think, should be a very brief address calling for fairness, tolerance, understanding and a reminder to practice the ethic of reciprocity. It should be respectful, have an air of solemnity, and be devoid of such things as satire, sarcasm and absurdities.

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  • 28
    BurninMan says:

    How about something like:
    As we gather here, Let us reflect and be mindful that human kind has always had the ability to progress, even in the face of intolerance and oppression. That whatever your station in life, you are deserving of common decency and respect. Let us be mindful that logic and reason are and should be at the forefront of our thoughts and actions. Let us reflect on the past and always try to better ourselves and others without repeating the mistakes of the past. Let us pledge to endeavor to make the world a better place for all living things. Let us always strive for peace.

    Too cheesy?

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  • And too long. How about:

    “Is everybody here?”
    “Are we all ready to proceed and give the meeting full attention, and has everybody received a copy of the agenda?”
    “Good, then let’s start. Would the secretary please read the minutes of the last meeting.”

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  • After listening to their constant, ignorant drone for 70 years and they don’t have the timerity to listen to a humanist invocation. What spineless ignorance.

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  • As an evangelical Christian, I would that there would be no entanglement between the government and religion. And when you consider how hosed up Congress has been in spite of decades of prayers to open sessions, I think you could make a good case for their lack of efficacy. It was just rude to walk out on the invocation.

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  • Deist: A person who believes in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism ).
    Theist: A person who believes in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation (distinguished from deism ).
    Atheist: a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.
    Agnostic: a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
    Ignostic: A Person with the view that any religious term or theological concept presented must be accompanied by a coherent definition. Without a clear definition such terms cannot be meaningfully discussed.
    Based on the aforelisted definitions, I consider atheism to be commensurate with theism as both are belief based philosophies/theologies. The delivered satirical ‘invocation’ was out of place and not an invocation. An ‘invocation’ may be defined as the act of appealing to a higher authority for help. For a public commissioner meeting an appeal for the commission to arrive at decisions through reason and effective deliberation may be a more constructive invocation.

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  • 35
    Vorpal says:

    Cheesy does not apply. Your suggestion is a good one and very much along the lines of what I thought an atheist invocation should be. At just under 30 seconds, it is not too long. Had the clown who gave the invocation had you as his speech writer, we’d have had no reason to be embarrassed.

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  • 37
    aquilacane says:

    I don’t believe anything about god. I do accept that I have not seen any convincing evidence put forward. I don’t need to believe that, I have evidence that I have no evidence.

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  • 38
    BurninMan says:

    Gregory: It is nice to know YOU “considered” the definition and YOU believe that atheism is “commensurate” with theism but that is just plain bunk and shows a complete lack of understanding of the word and people that are atheists. Atheism is NOT a Phylosophy and definitely NOT a Theology. It is simply a word that defines a person as not believing in God. It is not a cult, a belief system, or anything of the sort. Atheists don’t gather and preach, and we certainly don’t subscribe to myth. Believing in science and logic and placing fairy tales and allegory and ancient stories in there proper context, as the myths they are, is not a belief system. If anythingmmit is the lack thereof. We are not sheep and we are not machines. We have discourse about what is intelligent and real and tangible, not about or subscribing to the supernatural. And someone described as an atheist usually doesn’t say “we” as some sort of flock. Not in the context of a believer of myth.
    Those that are proactive like Mr. Dawkins are placing themselves in the public eye as well as their beliefs and advocating there cause in an effort to fight ignorance and intolerance, not the “cause” of most atheists. The vast majority of atheists are never heard or seen, and evidence shows rarely admit they are even atheist. Thankfully, and partly because of people like Mr. Dawkins it has become more acceptable in our dogmatic society and culture to actually say, yes, I am an atheist and don’t care who knows it. It is because of the ignorance of the past and theists the world over that just a few decades or less ago, they could not even admit it and keep a job, or standing of any sort. That is called intolerance and theists do it quite well. You still cannot run for president and expect to win if you say aloud that you do not believe in God. So, that is just one reason some of us are advocates and want one simple thing, to keep theists from interjecting their ignorance into our government and our schools. To keep intolerance from what it has always done, repressed, oppressed and stifled science and ideas beyond the bible or other myths.
    You are clearly mistaking anti-theists like Dawkins and Hitchens for atheists. And yes, anti-theists are also obviously atheist.

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  • 39
    BurninMan says:

    Thank you!
    I agree and find it interesting that most people here at least, think it was ridiculous showboating. And yes, it did seem like a prayer and nothing any atheists I know would ever say. It is people and actions like that that give theist the silly notion that atheists are creating a belief system.
    Making a point and making an ass of yourself are not mutually exclusive.

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  • I’m Secular and my intellect and education will never allow me to be anything else. But I also wouldn’t be tolerant of somebody browbeating me with a lengthy diatribe like that. I’d have been the secular Council member or Commissioner who would interrupt this guy and tell him to get down off the soap box. Because we have an agenda to get through. And we’re not the proper venue for this. As a Secularist I’ve endured a lot of people trying to push their beliefs on me. Like this guy. I wouldn’t like it no matter what direction from which it comes.

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  • 42
    BurninMan says:

    And thus, your same point has been made over and over by most of the people here.
    I agree.
    But, in this case he was obviously trying to use an extreme example to make a point. It was lame and poorly done, but I get what he was “trying” to do. But, as is obvious from just a smattering of atheists, it backfired into ridiculousness.
    But if/when someone does a religious invocation (equally ridiculous) I don’t walk out. I don’t bow my head and mutter to myself. I do get irritated, but I don’t get up and walk out.
    I have no tolerance for intolerance.

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  • Dennis Jan 15, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    I’m Secular and my intellect and education will never allow me to be anything else. But I also wouldn’t be tolerant of somebody browbeating me with a lengthy diatribe like that. I’d have been the secular Council member or Commissioner who would interrupt this guy and tell him to get down off the soap box.

    I think you are missing the point. This was introduced, to challenge evangelical prayers being held at the beginning of meetings, so atheists put in parity claims when this “invocation into”, was not withdrawn.

    Because we have an agenda to get through. And we’re not the proper venue for this.

    I would agree with that, but if a majority of the body would not co-operate, and vote it out; – making an equality claim so THEY also have to waste their time listening to something THEY don’t want to hear, makes the point that the law (as decided by this body) is an ass and should be seen and heard braying! This is politics, not rational debate.

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