Polk County, Florida has a public school board that meets in the county school district auditorium to discuss the secular, governmental functions of running the public schools. Despite their purpose, though, they insist on opening with a prayer, a practice which has encountered some criticism and which they have dealt with evasively and dishonestly.
Earlier this month, the School Board began a new practice in which the board placed a disclaimer on the meeting agenda and held a prayer before the meeting officially began.
The policy change came after a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened a lawsuit if prayers during regular meetings continued.
The disclaimer reads: "Voluntary invocation may be offered before the opening of the School Board meeting by a private citizen. The views or beliefs expressed in the invocation have not been reviewed nor approved by the School Board, and the Board is not allowed, by law, to endorse the religious beliefs or views of this, or any other speaker."
So they invited a local minister to say a prayer before the meeting officially began. Everyone is present, sitting in their chairs, ready to get to work on public business, but they're just pretending the meeting hasn't actually started until their god-botherer has finished begging Jesus to come into their lives.
It's a lie and a game. They are still making religion part of the session, and there is no reason any gods need to be invoked prior to handling secular affairs. But of course the purblind Christian wankers on the board don't see any problem with stuffing their religion in everyone's faces.
John Kieffer sees the problem. He announced that "Prayer has no place in government!" — and he's right — during a recent hypocritical flaunting of Jesus jabber before the meeting, and has been arrested for disorderly conduct. Apparently, invocations that are pro-god are legal, but invocations that reject gods will get you arrested in Polk County.
That challenging dogma is a criminal act isn't the biggest issue in the county though. What's even more appalling is the discussion that the school board then had in their meeting — they seem to think the problem will be resolved by packing more jeebus-jabber into the proceedings.
Audience member Tabitha Hunt told board members that the invocation needed to return as a part of the regular meeting.
"They (the atheist group) are very outspoken and I think as Christians we need to be just as outspoken," she said.
Retired School Principal L.D. Wilcox said the incident brought tears to his eyes because of the children who were sitting in the audience.
"We talk about not leaving debts for our children, but what about integrity and responsibility?" Wilcox said. "It's all right to disagree, but we have to learn how to respect one another."
Fields said she would meet with School Board Attorney Wes Bridges about returning the prayer to its former spot on the meeting agenda.
O'Reilly said that while district officials want prayers at the meeting, it will be a costly legal fight and the district needs the community's support.
"So if there are people who say we want prayers, then you better step up," he said. "You go to your churches and synagogues and tell them they'll need to help us."
So they have a little dodge and disclaimer that they've implemented to justify their claim that they aren't including religion in official county business…but now they're arguing that they need to get more prayer into their governmental functions and that they want the local churches to help them do that. I think their cover is blown: these are wannabe theocrats in action.