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Atheists Demand Right To Deliver Invocations At Government Meetings

ROWLETT (CBSDFW.COM) - Despite living in Rowlett for more than a decade, Chad Aldridge says his beliefs aren't represented in local government.

Aldridge is one of the founding members of the Rowlett chapter of the Metroplex Atheists.

Last week, he and several members of the group submitted a formal request to the Rowlett City Council to allow them to deliver an invocation before a city council meeting.

The request cited a Supreme Court decision in the Town of Greece v. Galloway case, which allows for non-religious invocations to be given at government meetings.  The court also stipulated that the prayer can't demean other religions, attempt to convert people and that the council cannot coerce attendees to participate in prayer.

President of the Metroplex Atheists, Randy Word, says the group just wants what they consider fair.

"We fully support people's rights to pray wherever they want, whenever they want. They government is not allowed to. If they do allow it they have to be fair to everyone, non-believers and non-Christians as well," says Word.

Rowlett citizens who identify as Christians told CBS 11 News they wouldn't have a problem with an atheist group delivering an invocation.

"Just like we don't want someone infringing on our freedoms as Christians to worship God in a way we see fit, we don't want to infringe on anyone else's freedoms," said Frank Nelson, a pastor in Rowlett.

Rowlett's current policy allows any established religion to deliver invocations, and right now, that's only the Christian faith.

Mayor Todd Gottel sent CBS 11 News the following statement:

"The City of Rowlett has recently received another in a series of demands from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The City is aware of the recent US Supreme Court ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway. In that opinion, the US Supreme Court ruled that the policy for council invocations in the Town of Greece was valid and constitutional. The policy followed in the City of Rowlett is almost identical to the policy followed by the Town of Greece, New York. The recent demand from the Freedom From Religion Foundation misinterprets the Supreme Court's opinion. Rowlett's policy is valid and the City will continue to allow invocations at its council meetings in accordance with the US Constitution."


Aldridge and Word say they plan to take their fight to court, should the city continue to now allow them to deliver an invocation.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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