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Keller Council Members Deny Atheist Chance To Speak

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KELLER (CBSDFW.COM) - Moments before a city council meeting, Keller scrapped plans for an atheist to deliver its invocation.

The mayor offered a prayer instead.

Zachary Moore, representing Keller Humanists, was set to speak.

"The things I like to invoke are our shared values. I like to invoke the democratic process," he said.

Moore has given the invocation at Keller city council meetings three times in the last year. It comes with a condition, though.
Moore's invocations are always followed by a prayer given by Pastor John Salvesen of the Bear Creek Bible Church.

"I was fine with that too for a while, but it occurred to me that what happened was also a form of discrimination," said Moore.
Last week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates for separation of church and state, sent the council a letter.

"If the Council insists on continuing to host prayers at public meetings, it cannot discriminate against any person wishing to give a prayer. The nonreligious and members of minority religions must be permitted to deliver invocations on an equal basis. This not only means permitting them to be in the invocation rotation, it also means not making a special show of diluting their message with a subsequent Christian prayer," reads the letter.

Pastor Salvesen, who oversees the invocation, sees one problem, though. Moore, he claims, isn't praying, since he has no one to pray to.

"You can pray in the name of Jesus, in the name of Allah, or anything else. Any other deity. The Supreme Court guarantees that. That was their decision. But Mr. Moore does not provide a prayer," he said.

Salvesen says, he's never seen a Muslim or Jewish leader deliver the invocation, but says they'd be welcome. He also says their invocation would not be followed by any other prayer.

The city is consulting its attorneys about a new policy on future invocation

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