The city of Lake Worth, located in Palm Beach County, Fla., is becoming what some are calling the battleground for the separation of church and state.
It began when atheist Preston Smith hounded the Lake Worth City Commission for the opportunity to deliver the invocation that opens its meetings, according to local NBC affiliate WPTV News Channel 5. After he hinted at a lawsuit, the city gave in. Even frivolous suits cost money.
Local blogger Wes Blackman recorded the event, and posted it to his blog and on YouTube.
“They did give him a chance, and because they gave him a chance, 200,000 people have seen his invocation,” Blackman told the station.
But before Smith uttered his first word, Mayor Pam Triolo and three commissioners — Scott Maxwell, John Szerdi, and Andy Amoroso — all walked out, leaving Commissioner Christopher McVoy as the lone holdout.
Szerdi submitted this statement:
My reason for leaving the chambers was based on my determination that I preferred to not have this person saying a prayer on my behalf. As much as he had a right to say what he said, I had a right to not listen. In the future, I believe we should set aside “a moment of silent prayer” so everyone can reflect on their own without offending anyone.
Commissioner District 4
Smith’s invocation was arguably the opposite of “non-denominational.” It included nearly every belief system imaginable, and by so doing, he made a mockery of religious belief. He said:
Mother Earth, we gather today in your redeeming and glorious presence, to invoke your eternal guidance in the universe, the original Creator of all things.
May the efforts of this council blend the righteousness of Allah with the all-knowing wisdom of Satan. May Zeus, the great God of justice, grant us strength tonight. Jesus might forgive our shortcomings while Buddha enlightens us through His divine affection. We praise you, Krishna, for the sanguine sacrifice that freed us all. After all, if Almighty Thor is with us, who can ever be against us?
And finally, for the bounty of logic, reason, and science, we simply thank the atheists, agnostics, Humanists, who now account for 1 in 5 Americans, and [are] growing rapidly. In closing, let us, above all, love one another, not to obtain mythical rewards for ourselves now, hereafter, or based on superstitious threats of eternal damnation, but rather, embrace secular-based principles of morality — and do good for goodness’ sake.
And so we pray.
Here’s Smith’s invocation, via “Wes Blackman’s City of Lake Worth Blog.” Story continues after clip.
Now the issue is escalating even further. Deerfield Beach resident Chaz Stevens announced he wants to open a future Lake Worth meeting with a satanic prayer.
“We want to make a circus out of it,” Stevens told WPTV. “We want to make a fiasco out of it, we want to make it so freaking, utterly ridiculous that they rethink this.”
Although Deerfield Beach is located south of Lake Worth, in neighboring Broward County, he said he considers Lake Worth to be the “battleground” of the separation of church and state debate. Also, Deerfield Beach has repeatedly denied similar requests.
Watch the news clip on this story, via WPTV: