Them damned ath-EEE-ists, well, they’re dancin’ in the streets. What are we gonna do about it, Verle?


Former city council candidate Steve Burks, who is a minister by trade, apparently is hopping mad that city council president Diane Benedetti has wonderfully adjusted the council’s agenda to stipulate a “moment of reflection” rather than various other council-sanctioned public prayers, as compelled by rote on attendees over the years.

Good for her. This quite possibly is the most progressive act to occur in New Albany since the last original Scribner brother passed from the scene, and if she persists in purging superfluous religious observances from local government, I may have to support her for mayor in 2015.

My personal opinion is that Benedetti realized that as long as Burks was planning to attend every council meeting for the foreseeable future, he’d always be the only preacher in attendance by default, and therefore the most eager of volunteers to say an invocation at each of the next 93 council gatherings through December, 2015. I suspect that the thought of of listening to Burks urge God to help the council protect taxpayers (or else … cue the glower) was too much for Benedetti to bear, and so she did the only sensible thing.

Meanwhile, Burks was on the “Let Liberty Ring” radio show earlier today, complaining to the Ayatollah Wickens that free speech was being abridged by Benedetti’s agenda alteration, and of course this allegation is about as politically charged as his past council invocations. Now, for once, each individual in the audience can pray in his or her own way, to whichever God strikes them as appropriate, or not at all. It strikes me as the freest religious observance ever, and kudos to Benedetti the Liberator for enabling it.

This topic was discussed here a very long time ago. I will reprint the entire piece, and urge you to click the link to read comments posted at the time.

Council invocation reform? Too good to be true? (December 14, 2008)

Just in time for Christmas, Freedom to Screech is reporting a miraculous occurrence.

(No, Erika’s not going to start using her real name. Some things are simply beyond the scope of providence.)

Rather, in her usual syntax-challenged manner, the nutty transgendered professor says that “some City Council members plan to remove saying the Lords Prayer before council meetings.”


The New Albany City Council said the Lords Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance for over 25 years. We have heard some City Council members plan to remove saying the Lords Prayer before council meetings.

President Gahan has stated he feels uncomfortable standing there saying the prayer. Has he told his Catholic Priest about this problem with the Lords Prayer?

We have been told that Councilman Bob Caesar also stated that the Lords Prayer should be removed. Where does Bob Caesar attend church?

We have also been told Councilman Dan Coffey agrees that the Lord’s Prayer should be removed. Where does Dan Coffey attend church?

Freedom Of Speech would like to ask, “Why are these Councilmen listening to the Atheist?”

Will their next move be to remove the “Pledge of Allegiance” from council meetings? …

… Freedom of Speech feels that we need to say “GOD BLESS AMERICA” and pray for God’s help more so now… than ever!

I can’t believe it, either. “The Atheist” is utterly flabbergasted if, in fact, this long overdue step is even being contemplated, much less slated for timely implementation. Naturally, we should be wary, because Erika’s red herrings are the stuff of local legend. As ever, she’s surely entitled to her opinions, but not to facts that have been conjured from thin air, and the facts in this case are simple.

Nothing in the city’s code of ordinances specifically mandates the rote recital of the Lord’s Prayer as a prequisite for listening to Steve Price drone endlessly about grammaw’s cookie jar, Pandora’s Box and the importance of nickels and dimes in the lives of the unambitious.

Ear plugs and blindfolds would be helpful, though. Here is the relevant ordinance snippet.


The following order of business shall be observed by the Common Council at its meetings:

(A) Invocation. To be given by ministers, if present of different faiths.

(B) Pledge of allegiance.

Clearly, there is no mention of the Lord’s Prayer. Just as clearly, the Pledge of Allegiance is required. Whether the Pledge of Allegiance in a broader sense is coherent or even necessary, or whether it should encourage the veneration of brightly colored cloth and include the words “under God,” are subjects for earnest discussion on another day.

Even the otherwise clueless ex-councilman Kochert understood that to properly observe the ordinance is to ask if a minister is present before saying the Lord’s Prayer. If this appreciation for the rules had extended elsewhere, Kochert might possess a legacy. But I digress.

It has long been my view that the “invocation” clause in our fat volume of typically neglected ordinances is best construed as an opportunity to bring cultural diversity within eyesight of our elected officials, who haven’t always shown a recognition of such matters.

Locally profuse Protestant denominations alone certainly would be sufficient to provide personnel for 24 invocations each year, but more significantly, numerous non-Christian perspectives are available for thoughtful consideration, from Muslim to Native American, from Jewish to Wiccan, and everywhere outside and in between.

As for the “Atheist’s” invocation, I have a brief passage from H.L. Mencken that would do quite nicely.

If Erika’s rumor is true, kudos to councilmen Gahan, Caesar and Coffey for being, er, progressive about something.

Man … that was really tough.