Atheist's invocation a 'slap in the face' to the nation

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Russ Jones (

An Oklahoma delegate to the Republican National Convention is incensed that the Tulsa City Council has agreed to allow an atheist to pray at its meeting today.

The prayer, or "invocation," ends a year-long battle with council members in the "Bible Belt" city. The Humanist Association of Tulsa has worked for years to prevent sectarian prayers before Tulsa City Council meetings, finding little success with the leaders who remain confident that the practice is constitutional.

Toni Calvey, Oklahoma resident and Republican delegate representing The Sooner State in Tampa, has concerns about what the atheist's prayer represents.

"Personally I think it's a slap in the face to our Christian heritage … our nation and … our state of Oklahoma," she comments. "We are a conservative state, and I think that something like this is meant to be provocative, and it's insulting to me."

Dan Nerren, a former Southern Baptist and retired railroad employee, is one of the founders of the Humanist Association of Tulsa. He is scheduled to give the prayer at today's 6:00 p.m. meeting and claims it will encourage council members to respect "the inherent dignity and worth of each person."

Calvey says decisions like this further erode the nation's Christian foundation.

"We don't go to other countries or other places and demand that they be so accommodating. I don't think that we should feel like we have to be," she offers.

The Associated Press reports that Bill Dusenberry of the Northeast Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State says allowing an atheist to offer the invocation is a good move by the city that shows a "willingness to accommodate diversity."

The Tulsa City Council has called for extra security for Thursday's meeting.

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