The Clark County Council had an atheist invocation, and they got an earful
The agenda for Clark County Council’s Tuesday night meeting included a few, dry, routine items, such as approval of minutes, warrants, land divisions and (unofficially) some very vocal atheism.
Last year, the Clark County Council revised its guidelines for invocations, prayers or words of inspiration intended to give guidance to the county’s legislative authority before meetings. The then-county commission began the practice in 2013. The county recently updated its invocation guidelines to minimize staff time and make it more inclusive. To that end, the new guidelines now allow a non-believer to give an invocation.
On Tuesday, the county council had its first atheist invocation since updating the guidelines delivered by Stuart Riley, a resident of Hazel Dell.
“There is no need to bow your heads because this is not an appeal to a higher power,” Riley began his invocation. “I only ask that you listen with an open mind and think rationally and critically on my words.”
Riley mentioned how the U.S. republic was founded as a consequence of the Enlightenment, an intellectual movement from the 17th and 18th centuries that emphasized human reason and produced secular theories of ethics and government. He also mentioned how secular ideals are present in the Declaration of Independence as well as the U.S. Constitution, which upholds the rights of racial, ethnic, religious minorities from the “tyranny of the majority.”
“For these principles, it is our hope and expectation that our councilors continue to find within themselves the guidance they need, to do what is right by virtue of our self-evident sense of morality and ethics, following reason and truth wherever it may lead, to enable them to perform their duties to the best of their ability, based on the facts, so that they can best represent all the residents of the county, regardless of whether those facts support their deeply held beliefs,” he concluded.
During the invocation, Council Chair Marc Boldt fiddled with his thumbs. Councilor John Blom’s six-year-old Beth, was sitting in as a guest councilor and gaveled the meeting’s start and end. She looked bored while Riley spoke.
But Riley wasn’t done yet. He used the public comment period to criticize the controversial “In God We Trust” motto displayed above the council’s dais and explained why they shouldn’t trust the Abrahamic God of the Bible. He cited the Bible’s support for slavery and acts of vengeance committed by God in the Old Testament.
“(Any) government body displaying that idiotic motto proclaiming we all should trust in this immoral god, is also displaying a complete ignorance or denial of the facts to the point of irrationality,” said Riley.
He asked the council to remove the slogan and offered to pay to have it removed. At the end of his remarks, Boldt responded with his customary “thank you.”
So what did Blom’s daughter think? Blom shared her notes with me, which shows how you can count on kids to keep things in perspective.