Local Wiccan uninvited to give city council invocation due to ‘community fears’ (poll)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – City Council chambers were filled with people Thursday evening for the regularly scheduled meeting of the Huntsville City Council.

But missing from the crowd was Blake Kirk, who – up until Wednesday – had been asked to give the invocation.

WHNT News 19 confirmed with Huntsville City Attorney Peter Joffrion that Blake had been asked to give the invocation Thursday, but when the agenda was released publicly earlier this week, several council members received community concerns about ‘a Wiccan’  being invited to speak.

Blake is a practicing member and clergy in the Wiccan faith, and surprisingly the man at the center of this controversy has given an invocation in front of city council in Huntsville before.

“I gave the invocation earlier this year, at the time they did not ask me what my faith affiliation was, but when they did this time and I told them ‘Wiccan,’  I was told I was no longer invited to give it,” Blake told WHNT News 19 from his home Thursday night.

WHNT News 19 made several attempts to get comment from city council members and Mayor Tommy Battle, but all questions were directed to city attorney Joffrion Thursday evening.

This comes on the heels of the city of Huntsville being attacked by the Wisconsin- based Freedom From Religion Foundation for its long-standing tradition of opening meetings with a prayer.

In the wake of those threats from the FFR, the city publicly made an effort to become more inclusive to other faiths in our community. But Thursday night it appears the level of inclusion was tested.

“It is not right, the city can not pick and choose what faiths they want to support and allow to speak and give the prayer,” Blake says.

Past Support For Prayers Before Meetings

Councilman Will Culver publicly expressed his approval of  the idea of an opening prayer that rotates among different faiths in past interviews with WHNT and our news partners at AL.com.

“That’s the only way to do it, in my opinion,” Culver told our news partners at The Huntsville Times, back in 2012 at the time of the letter from the FFR. “Everybody should have an opportunity.”

Back in March of 2012 following the threats to sue the city over the invocation, city leaders pointed to the case of seven Atlanta-area taxpayers argued in Pelphrey v. Cobb County that the Constitution’s Establishment Clause permits only nonsectarian prayer at public meetings. The judges disagreed, saying that courts should not consider the content of legislative prayers unless they were clearly being used to proselytize or advance a particular religion.

“We’ll follow the guidelines of Pelphrey,” Joffrion told our news partners AL.com at that time.

Rev. Frank Broyles of the Interfaith Mission Service has offered to help coordinate a rotating roster of Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Confucian and other leaders who could be called upon to deliver the opening prayer.

While an estimated 75 percent of Huntsville residents identify themselves as Christians, Broyles said a “spiritual landscape” survey counted 14 non-Christian faiths practiced in the Rocket City, according to information from The Huntsville Times.

Note: Since our initial story aired June 26, at least two major national advocacy groups confirmed they have sent letters to Huntsville city leaders on this matter.

127 comments

  • J

    Although I’m Christian, I’m shocked that he cannot give the invocation. That’s what living in a society with the freedom of religion means. If one can, all can.

    • Cynthia

      To everyone who is against people of other faiths giving the invocation: we have freedom of religion. Not everyone is Christian and that is just a fact that you all have to accept. I am a Christian, but I know that there are other faiths, and I am fine with others practicing it. You don’t have to follow their religion just as they don’t have to follow yours. Letting them practice their faith isn’t trampling your religion, but you saying they cant practice theirs is trampling their rights. This man didn’t say he didn’t want Christians to give an invocation. He just gave an invocation of his own when it came around to his turn.

  • Christopher Werle

    God forbid we anger the Christians. I fought a in a war to protect everyone’s freedoms so all people of all faiths could celebrate their religion, not just Christians, and I am an Atheist. This is why I have a problem with organized religion. It’s okay to spew hate and intolerance from the pulpit in the south as long as a there is a loin clothen man hanging froma cross behind it. What a shame the south is still a biggeted cesspool as it was when slavery was around.

    • Bradley Summers

      thank you for risking your life for mine and everyone else’s freedom to be kept free and wish you the very best sir and am sorry you an the othere vets have to deal with all the bs you have to deal with bless you guys and girls

    • RSVR

      Not sure wiccan is defined as a religion, similar to native american spirituality. But spiritual it is, and therefore something with some merit; I don’t support religiousness for the sake of making noise to which there is no substance. But it is amusing for an declared Atheist (no faith) to comment on anything dealing with the spiritual as you have no knowledge, understanding or frame of reference. This simply makes you the hypocrite like the others who continue to force their fatalistic beliefs on established groups wanting them to yield to the “no prayer anywhere” edict. Why do you fear prayer so if you have no belief in a God? This is the same hate & intolerance you cry out against.

      • Rhian

        ‘”no knowledge, understanding or frame of reference”

        Really? ‘Cause as an atheist, I couldn’t have grown up around my entire family, all of whom identify as some denomination or other of Christianity, and have gotten a pretty good look at what rabid Southern Christians are? As an atheist, I couldn’t have witnessed my school system from K-12 pushing Christianity on us, that I can’t have had Christian fables taught to me as fact when I was a young impressionable child? As an atheist, I could have felt the ostracization of other classmates when they asked if I would go to church, and when I said I wasn’t Christian they treated me like the Devil incarnate despite never knowing what I actually was? Because as an atheist, I cannot turn on the TV and watch the 700 Club demean and belittle people that geriatric waste of space disagrees with? Because I cannot read a news article where yet another religious leader is declaring gays, or atheists, or women as inferior and in need of destruction or control? Because I cannot read another poll saying atheists are the most hated and untrusted group in not only America but the world? Because I cannot pick up a religious text and read it myself, or talk to local pastors, or go to church to hear their interpretation of passages? Because I cannot read your comment, and hundreds of others made on a daily basis by people of all faiths, claiming I have no morals, or am angry at god, or am a heathen that can leave this country, or distorting our tradition of all inclusiveness in this country, or calling for my death, or telling me I just somehow don’t understand religion just because I am an atheist? I understand plenty about religion. So do most atheists. We know more than you, and most followers of any religion, about your own religion. That’s why we’re atheists.

      • avengah

        Many atheists were once religious themselves. Many atheists know the bible, koran etc. better than believers do. How dare you presume to know atheists don’t understand spirituality? We understand it perfectly and know it’s no more than a comforting delusion. Personally I prefer to know the truth as proven by the scientific method, not a “comforting” lie. But threats of eternal punishment for simply not believing due to lack of evidence is hardly comforting; it’s tyrannical and petty.

      • Bob

        As it happens Wicca is a recognized religion in the United States. It’s symbology primarily the pentagram is allowed on tombs of those Service Members who follow the faith in our nations cemetery’s.

      • Bob

        In regards as to whether or not Wicca is a recognized religion….

        From the Religious Tolerance website…

        ” An important ruling of a state Supreme Court was in Georgia: Roberts v. Ravenwood Church of Wicca, (249 Ga. 348) in 1982. It was similar to Dettmer v Landon, below.

        The District Court of Virginia declared in 1985 (Dettmer v Landon, 617 F Suup 592 [E. Dst. Va.]) that Wicca is “clearly a religion for First Amendment purposes….Members of the Church sincerely adhere to a fairly complex set of doctrines relating to the spiritual aspect of their lives, and in doing so they have ‘ultimate concerns’ in much the same way as followers of more accepted religions. Their ceremonies and leadership structure, their rather elaborate set of articulated doctrine, their belief in the concept of another world, and their broad concern for improving the quality of life for others gives them at least some facial similarity to other more widely recognized religions.” 1 This was a landmark case.

        Judge J. Butzner of the Fourth Circuit Federal Appeals Court confirmed the Dettmer v Landon decision (799F 2nd 929) in 1986. He said: “We agree with the District Court that the doctrine taught by the Church of Wicca is a religion.” Butzner J. 1986 Fourth Circuit.
        A case was brought in 1983 in the U.S. District Court in Michigan. The court found that 3 employees of a prison had restricted an inmate in the performance of his Wiccan rituals. This “deprived him of his First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws.” More details

        A case Wheeler v Condom was argued before a U.S. Postal Service Administrative Judge regarding who had the right to pick up mail addressed to The Church of Y Tylwyth Teg (a.k.a. Y Tylwyth Teg), and The Association of Cymmry Wicca and delivered to a Georgia post office box. The 1989 decision recognized both groups as valid religious organizations. “

      • Tab

        Some court decisions which have recognized Wicca are:

        An important ruling of a state Supreme Court was in Georgia: Roberts v. Ravenwood Church of Wicca, (249 Ga. 348) in 1982. It was similar to Dettmer v Landon, below.

        The District Court of Virginia declared in 1985 (Dettmer v Landon, 617 F Suup 592 [E. Dst. Va.]) that Wicca is “clearly a religion for First Amendment purposes….Members of the Church sincerely adhere to a fairly complex set of doctrines relating to the spiritual aspect of their lives, and in doing so they have ‘ultimate concerns’ in much the same way as followers of more accepted religions. Their ceremonies and leadership structure, their rather elaborate set of articulated doctrine, their belief in the concept of another world, and their broad concern for improving the quality of life for others gives them at least some facial similarity to other more widely recognized religions.” This was a landmark case.

        Judge J. Butzner of the Fourth Circuit Federal Appeals Court confirmed the Dettmer v Landon decision (799F 2nd 929) in 1986. He said: “We agree with the District Court that the doctrine taught by the Church of Wicca is a religion.” Butzner J. 1986 Fourth Circuit.
        A case was brought in 1983 in the U.S. District Court in Michigan. The court found that 3 employees of a prison had restricted an inmate in the performance of his Wiccan rituals. This “deprived him of his First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws.”

        A case Wheeler v Condom was argued before a U.S. Postal Service Administrative Judge regarding who had the right to pick up mail addressed to The Church of Y Tylwyth Teg (a.k.a. Y Tylwyth Teg), and The Association of Cymmry Wicca and delivered to a Georgia post office box. The 1989 decision recognized both groups as valid religious organizations.

      • ohioatheist

        I’m not sure why you would assume that an atheist would have no frame of reference. Many atheists, including me, were raised religious (in my case, Methodist).

  • nuclear mike

    It is election time coming…”white witches” are just not at the celeb status level that the Media has made of gays so the witches have no media voice until they become a rainbow club status member…

    • Alicia

      White witches? What decade are you living in?
      Clearly, your knowledge of what a Wiccan practices is limited to the 1970’s.

      • Nuclear Mike

        The Present…as the term preferred by those who live in Chattanooga in prominent lives…as apposed to “black witches”…Wicca is a modern version interpretation of a pagan, witchcraft religion…

      • Nuclear Mike

        and for the record…”The word witch derives from Middle English wicche, Old English wicce (/ˈwɪttʃe/) (feminine) “witch” and wicca (/ˈwɪttʃɑ/) (masculine) “wizzard”.”

      • afolmer

        It may be an outdated reference, but there are still plenty of people who identify that way. 70’s era Wiccans still exist you know ;)

    • Jody Mena

      I respect that your coven or circle may do things differently, however, many of the modern international pagan community actually consider the term “white witch” and “black witch” misnomers nowadays, as those term lend themselves to a dichotomous “black and white” world view that many modern Pagans find limiting. I think “black witchcraft” is more commonly called “left hand magic” now; whereas there is no real popular term for “good witchcraft” other than simply “witchcraft” – couching it in terms that classify witchcraft as a good and wholesome thing in general. Also, the trend now is that witches are witches, male or female. Again, I respect that your coven may do it differently; just trying to clear any confusion that may be going on in the comments below.

      Also, I think its important that if we want to be heard and our religious rights respected, we need to speak out. I think some of the Pagan organizations around the nation need to begin drawing attention to these causes in an organized fashion. LGBT rights is also an important issue, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a competition. Our rights are also important, but we are not being loud enough to get peoples’ attention. Maybe we should start having parades on Pagan Pride days. Raise awareness or something. Seriously.

    • Tori

      Nuclear Mike, not every Wiccan practices the same. Also, Wicca and Witchcraft are different. Some Wiccans do practice Witchcraft, some do not. Wicca is a religion, Witchcraft is a lifestyle. The whole ‘white and black’ nonsense has no place in Wicca. As a Wiccan, we believe in balance and nature. Nature is both loving and cruel, black and white, light and dark. Both are needed for balance. Those who say ‘I’m a white witch’ or ‘I’m a black witch’ are denying their other half, and this do not understand Witchcraft, let alone Wicca.

      • Mule Breath (@Muledung)

        The entire conversation is rather amusing and Tori’s comment illustrates this very well. Not only do different Wiccans practice differently, every follower of every superstition has a different perspective of that myth and all the others that the other “believers” cling to. Religion is like a cafeteria. The promoters put all of the elements of the myth on the steam table side by side, and you choose the ones you want to “practice”. At the end of the line there are sauces and spices that you can use to alter even those. In truth, every spiritual belief has only a single follower.

      • Nuclear Mike

        Simply, put…there is no place for the “hocus pocus” of witchcraft magic in our Society… the “Harry Porter effect” has been taken too seriously by our youth as being a possible reality, it is not. The balance of nature is called conservation not wicche.

  • Patrick Stevens

    It didnt take long before the religious bigotry and hatred showed itself. come on.. like everyone said when this law passed, “if you dont like it, go sit in the hallway”.. a new black eye on huntsville.. who wants to bring their out of state industry to alabama now that it shows how backwards this state is.. Only christian prayer and closing abortion clinics.. whats next… Wanna push gays back into closet, maybe blacks into slavery.. Whats the next move, fearless govt.

  • Kathy

    Why is it that people who preach tolerance and expect all others to see things as they do are the very ones who are so full of hatred toward Christians? As Christians, we believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, as the Saviour of the world and the only way to God, as the Bible says. It isn’t bigotry–it’s faith. And just as the young woman overseas who was arrested because she is a Christian and won’t renounce her faith for Islam, we can’t deny our faith or participate in any worship, etc., of another that is contrary to the Bible, the written Word of God.

    • Shannon Kish

      No one is asking you to get rid of your beliefs… we are simply expecting that OUR constitutional rights are just as protected as yours are. And, int this case, they have been violated.

    • avengah

      So it’s OK for Christians to pray loudly in front of non-Christians, but not for non-Christians to pray in front of Christians? No. You are discriminating against Wiccans and others, and letting them pray does not discriminate against Christians in any way.

      • avengah

        Sadly it seems that people like this are unable to see their hypocrisy and contradiction. A reasonable person will understand the logic behind not discriminating against minority faiths, but only authoritarian Xians think that discriminates against them! Still, as Dr House said, you can’t reason with religious people. Otherwise there would be no religious people.

    • Bob

      This attitude is exactly what the founding fathers of this nation were trying to avoid when they removed all religion and religious references from the Constitution. Alabama once again shows it’s intense Bigotry in word and in deed. Religious freedom is for “ALL” religions not just Christians. I guise it’s ok for your preacher to stand up there and preach his word and all other religions are just supposed to listen quietly and accept it but when the shoe is on the other foot you want to whine about how Christians are being persecuted? Please, get over yourself. Everyone in this country has the same rights last I heard, yours don’t trump mine and mine don’t trump yours. If your preacher can stand in a government meeting and put forth and invocation then my religion has the “right” to do the same. If mine cannot then neither can yours. It’s not a war it’s being just and fair.

    • Ren

      Kathy, is your faith so weak that you can’t allow another person’s invocation from another faith? Is the Christian god so weak that there can be no difference of faith in a country of many faiths? This city council decided that a Wiccan would not be allowed to give the invocation due to “fears” and “concerns,” thereby suppressing his freedom of religion. I think we found the intolerant ones. Now, are you going to support this man by allowing him voice or are we going to find out how weak you are?

    • Kathryn

      Kathy, you say that Christians cannot contradict their beliefs but are you aware that Christians are already doing so if they celebrate holidays like birthdays, Christmas, Easter and all sorts of others? Those are all traditions that date back to pre-Christian Paganism. Traditions adapted into Christian practice to make the Pagans feel more at ease when they converted to Christianity. So you see, if you are practicing those holidays you are already not practicing as it says in the bible. According to scholars, Jesus’ birth if he actually lived would have been somewhere more around September. And Easter? Explain to me what eggs and a hare, two fertility symbols for Pagan high days, have to do with a Jewish man’s execution? The answer: absolutely nothing.
      When it comes to bigotry, the term as defined by the dictionary means to be closed-minded to differing opinions- which is exactly what happened in this case. When Christians, like yourself, close your mind off to learn about religious opinions other than your own and seek only self-justification and reassurance that is when it is defined as bigotry, ma’am.
      Lastly, you are talking about persecution and proselytization of a woman overseas when confronted with Islamic extremists but ma’am, Christians are not the most discriminated religion. Not by a long shot. I was five months pregnant with my daughter, and I am very open about my Pagan practice- when a man came up to me and told me that my daughter was better off dead than having me for a mother because I “would not teach her things that were of God”, and that my daughter would go to hell if I did not become a Christian. He went around telling other people nearby that I would probably sacrifice my daughter the moment she was born, which is very untrue. Pagans are no less peaceful than a properly practicing Christian, Muslim or Jew. It is not faith that makes a good person, it is their actions. Please bear that in mind the next time you say things like this paragraph you just wrote.

    • afolmer

      By that same logic you could justify slavery, rape, and genocide. (All of which are completely allowed, and sometimes even ENCOURAGED in the Bible.) The right to swing your holy book, ends at my nose. Welcome to the Land of the Free.

  • Cassie

    “This comes on the heels of the city of Huntsville being attacked by the Wisconsin- based Freedom From Religion Foundation…”

    Someone needs to look up the definition of the word “attack.” Sending a letter does not qualify.

      • Jane

        I’m not a Humanist (well maybe a little), Agnostic OR atheist and I consider the FFRF to represent me, because I don’t want my OR your OR their religion in my government. Two “great” tastes that do NOT go together.

    • Shannon Kish

      Yeah, my aim at contacting FFRF was never to “attack” but actually to bring about inclusion of other religions and even non-religious invocations. If that qualifies as an attack, then I guess I am on the terrorist watch list?!?

  • Chuck Miller - Regional Director American Atheists

    The ideal solution would be to end this unnecessary practice and If council members feel they need prayer they can do that at home, at church, or silently in the council chamber – that way each can pray in their own way.

    If there is such a need for public ceremony and it is to be offered by community members then it must be inclusive and inclusive that means everyone – including those with no “faith” . Atheists, Agnostics, and Humanists happen to outnumber many of the smaller faith groups in this community, yet they have been systematically excluded by those coordinating the prayers.

    Huntsville can either make a small step toward community inclusion by allowing all who are willing, regardless of their beliefs, to offer public invocations or make the big step of ending this practice all together.

  • Shannon Kish

    As the person who contacted FFRF back in 2012 over the Christian prayers being the only faith offered, it sounds like another letter to FFRF is in order. I am saddened that Huntsville has done this again.

    • Kathy

      There is nothing in the article that suggests Christians were the ones complaining, but most people on this forum have made that assumption. There were a “few compaints” and 40% of the community identify themselves as non-christian. Those complaints could have been from members of any religion or those who don’t believe in religion at all. I guess blaming Christians for everything has become ‘stylish”.

      • afolmer

        If it looks like a spade, and acts like a spade, chances are it’s a spade. Forgive us if we choose to call it that.

      • Branko Pezdi

        I don’t know where you get your statistics but they are phony. In the U.S. 73% of the population identifies itself as “Christian”, and this number is most certainly higher in Alabama, as well as the Huntsville City Council. I very much doubt that the myraid of Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims on the council were the ones complaining! lmao

  • tmb

    And people wonder why I would move in an instant. Wicca isn’t a dangerous or “devilish” religion and should be treated just as you would any other. We don’t live in the 1800s anymore.

  • Joe Cogan

    Instead of asking whether all faiths should be allowed to give invocations, a better question is why have an invocation in the first place?

  • Lori Markle Bische

    So I’m assuming that Huntsville has loads of money just sitting around, which they will have to pay out in the inevitable judgment against them, when the ACLU sues on her behalf and wins?

      • Bob

        Perhaps my Goddess gave birth to your God… Arguments can be made in many different ways.. We each must follow our faith or lack of however we see fit. Fortunately our founders saw that and incorporated it into our constitution. They had to foresight to look into the history of religious persecution and decided they wanted none of it in our government nor did they want government deciding what religion they would follow. Some came from an environment where prayer was directly controlled by government in the form of a Book of Common Prayer. That book laid out what prayers were allowed to be said. The founders wisely decided to make sure no religious test was used to decide who could or could not be elected or work for our government. They also ensured the protection of and from religious practice with the very first Amendment. They tried to make sure that ALL religious beliefs had equal status in our nation. Prayer has in my opinion no place in government meetings, meeting whose function is to handle issues related to people of all faiths and of none. However if government does decide to include them then they must include members of all beliefs and of no beliefs. That’s how freedom of religion works and how our Constitution was designed.

  • Lynn Williams

    As a pagan minister and radio host, I see this as a case of religious intolerance where I do not believe that religion has no place in government institutions period. If they want to pray then they need to do it on their own time or in private. What that city council did was open themselves to a discrimination lawsuit that could potentially result in members of the city council including the mayor to be fired.
    Here is a true FACT for everyone here, Paganism and Wicca has ben present ever since the dark ages and existed long before christianity was formed and another FACT is that Chrisitanity was formed around Paganism hence why Paganism has been known as the “old religion” since it has been in existence far longer.
    As a pagan I work very hard to help educate those who only know it from how hollywood has portrayed pagans to be which has been evil devil worshipers which is totally incorrect and totally slanderous. Pagans and wiccans are earth loving people, who are just like everyone else, we pray to both the gods and goddess or in other words ( Mother earth, Mother nature, gods of the earth, fire, water, and air. We celebrate each season including planting and harvest times, we are animal lovers and do our best to protect life to its fullest.
    If people still want to base their beliefs on what is shown on TV by hollywood and lies told by corporate execs to stuff their pockets then so be it that is your own problem not ours.
    If people want to know the TRUTH to what pagans and wiccans are then come willing to be shown the truth and go in with an open mind.

    These are my own views

    Lynn Williams
    Prairie Land Pagan Radio
    Silver Wolf Spiritual / Ministries

    • Brainst0rms

      You might want to give a link that describes Wicca and/or Paganism. Give folks a chance to learn from non-fiction instead of Hollywood fiction. Not a Wiccan but never met one that hasn’t been a good person.

    • Gypsy Reign

      Actually wicca was founded in the 1950’s.
      Paganism does not have a founder. Wicca does. The founder of Wicca is Gerald Gardner. There are many Sabbats and Esbats that are celebrated in Wicca. Most people believe that these holidays are only celebrated in Wicca. This is inaccurate. These holidays, Sabbats, and Esbats are Pagan holidays. The Christians stole these holidays from the Pagans, in order to convert Pagans to Christianity.

      We can search all day long. Wicca was founded in 1950’s. Pegan is the only religion dated way before christ or jesus

    • Gypsy Reign

      Actually wicca was brought in the 1950’s.
      Paganism does not have a founder. Wicca does. The founder of Wicca is Gerald Gardner. There are many Sabbats and Esbats that are celebrated in Wicca. Most people believe that these holidays are only celebrated in Wicca. This is inaccurate. These holidays, Sabbats, and Esbats are Pagan holidays. The Christians stole these holidays from the Pagans, in order to convert Pagans to Christianity.

      Pegan is the only religion dated way before God or jesus. You can search all day long and you will find out that pegan was the first religion. And Christians took the pegan beliefs and added subtracted and made their own from the pegan religion. Wicca came along in the 1950’s. And neither religion includes witch craft it’s if u want to add it to your religion. Witchcraft is a practice not religion. But I believe all religions should have the right just as much as Christians do.

    • JanderVK

      Dear Lynn, before acting as a representative of the Pagan community, please educate yourself about the history of European polytheism and the cultures that practiced them first. The “Dark Ages” (an antiquated term, but beside the point), was an early period during the Middle Ages, a period of Europe that was by then well Christianized in most areas. Polytheism all but completely eradicated from common society by the time of the Baltic Crusades (from south to north, from the Roman Empire on). A developed Polytheistic (Pagan) Europe thrived however much earlier during antiquity (Bronze & Iron Age), until the Roman Empire was Christianized and the religion spread throughout the Empire until the fall of Rome, and continued to spread in to the Medieval period. Wicca on the other hand, is a much more recent practice that developed in the late 19th century & given a name in the early 20th. It being a neo-pagan religion with an eclectic hodge podge pan-cultural theology mixed with 19th century occultism. So please, before you educate more people on what paganism & Wicca is, learn the history behind those who practiced polytheistic religions first.

    • Nuclear Mike

      (to repeat)…Simply, put…there is no place for the “hocus pocus” of witchcraft magic in our Society… the “Harry Porter effect” has been taken too seriously by our youth as being a possible reality, it is not. The balance of nature is called conservation not wicche.

      • Pharaohsketches

        Mike, you sound quite ignorant referencing Harry Potter when people are talking about the Wiccan religion. Hey look Im you; These grown men like Mike are delusional there is no place for this Left Behind gobbledegook lifestyle.

  • kenny

    Voted no because allowing every single faith time is not very logical. No religion should be used in a government setting. Besides think about the uproar people will have when Satanists want to be included.

  • Brainst0rms

    I think All is a good answer. That includes Wiccans and other Pagan groups, as well as the atheists, etc. why not wish good for the government boards/councils? They can use all tithe help they can get.

  • Ward Welty

    Why should a government entity like the city council want to open its meetings with a prayer, any prayer? The government must remain neutral in religious matters. I say, open the meeting with a statement, “This meeting is now open for business,” and get on with the business at hand. If you want to pray, go to church. Government should stay out of the prayer business.

    • J

      Well, the precedent is in the starting of our country. Before congressional meetings, there were prayers, and while this country was being founded, there were prayers given. What has changed is a diversity of religions in the US, and with this diversity, Christians are afraid of losing their voice to other religions. However, if one religion gets to say a prayer, then all religions should be able to say a prayer, according to the religious freedom in our country.

  • CBC

    Reading these comments make me wonder whom the city council is catering to and why. Whomever it is needs to find an beleif that will sustain them when another exprsses conflicting opinions.

  • ravynblood

    Pagans and Athiests are becoming more and more of a target of late (at least it is being more widely reported because of social media now). Sadly the God fearing folks do not seem to understand that they are not the only religion that exists. Not ALL are so ignorant but the majority seem to like to hide in their book and use it against others. Not trying to stir the cauldron, just tired of religion in general.

    • CBC

      When I quit seeing Christian “Youth ministers” in the news for child molestation I’ll start worrying baout what the pagans and the atheists are doing.

    • J

      Same as I do now. It doesn’t change the fundamental right to freedom of religion we have as US citizens, and to equally protect our rights, we do need to allow people of other faiths to join in the invocation. I don’t agree with Paganism, I don’t agree with Islam, but it is a part of our fundamental rights as American citizens.

      • Leanne Comeau

        As a pagan I myself would never say I don’t agree with another religion I would just say I don’t follow the practise… saying one doesn’t agree with it is basically telling the person that their faith is wrong and that is arrogant
        …. and no ones faith is wrong.

      • J

        “As a pagan I myself would never say I don’t agree with another religion I would just say I don’t follow the practise… saying one doesn’t agree with it is basically telling the person that their faith is wrong and that is arrogant
        …. and no ones faith is wrong.”

        Leanne, I do have to ask why you don’t think anyone’s faith is “wrong.” Are you saying that all paths lead to God?

      • Leanne Comeau

        it leads to their God/Gods/Goddess/He/She/They/It … There is a higher energy in the universe and what you choose to call it is fine…. ALL religion IS man made, even mine but it speaks to me and helps me connect to the higher universal energy in a way that makes sense to me… the difference is I don’t go around telling everyone to believe as I do because my way of believing is different from theirs.. if they ask me questions then and only then do I discuss it… I am very strong in my belief I don’t need to prove it to myself by “converting people” … I find people who are constantly telling people there is only 1 true God or Allah is all powerful or the Goddess is above all others … are really trying to convince themselves and not others… if you are the that strong in your belief you will be content within and not worry about what others believe… because in all reality … it’s none of our business.

      • jeremygwoods

        Leanne, if we are that strong in our belief that we know that our religion is the only way, shouldn’t it be our responsibility to let others know the truth? If Christianity is true, then the alternative isn’t good (as in the punishment for our sins). Shouldn’t that be the drive then for my beliefs? Letting others know this truth? If I were silent about my beliefs, then I wouldn’t be convinced myself, because the truth of the punishment for our sins is heavy. I’m not saying I’m perfect, or have everything down, but if that is the truth of Christianity, then shouldn’t that be Christians’ motivation, to tell others about the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf?

        “[If] you are the that strong in your belief you will be content within and not worry about what others believe.”

        I am that strong in my belief, which does drive my passion to let others know the truth of God’s love for us. I DO believe Jesus is the only way to Heaven. That is why I must tell others. Not knowing where others are going to go when they die should drive me to tell them about the hope in Christianity. If I were to not believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, then I do see the need to not convince others of my belief.

        That being said, I still do think that the Huntsville City Council was wrong to not let Blake Kirk speak. I am from Huntsville, and I am saddened by their decision.

      • Bob

        In truth if you are “strong in your belief” then it should stand on its on and draw in followers based on that alone. It should not need to be fed by your proselytizing. If however you feel the need to shove your beliefs on others then it shows a weakness in your faith that needs to be bolstered by others. If I see someone practicing their beliefs by helping others, by supporting and caring for the world around them. I am far more likely to ask where their strength comes from, than I would be to approach someone who is beating down my door to force me to see them. Screaming “hey, hey look at me” shows shallowness and a lack of belief in the strength of a persons faith. The truth is there is tons of information available now via a multitude of sources where people can discover virtually any religion they wish to know more about. Without having people trying to shove their personal gnosis on everyone. As far as Christians and prayer, I believe Jesus tells you to go and pray in private not on the street corners and in public. But I suppose his teachings go against those who want to proselytize.

      • jeremygwoods

        Bob,
        The praying that Jesus referred to is the prayers like the “hypocrites.” Jesus referred often to the Pharisees and the Sadducees as hypocrites. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’” Luke 18:10-13.

        2 Chronicles 7:12-14 says, “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Generally prayer like this was a public prayer out of desperation for God to do a miracle. I don’t know for sure what the Christian prayers are like at the City Council meetings, but my guess is that they are something related to prayer for guidance for the meeting, just as the prayer to open Congress in the 1700’s was and still is today generally. In the previous Luke passage, it is reference to a prayer that is demeaning to the tax collector.

        I want to again state, as I have done before, that in order for us to have these rights to our prayers, that we must be able to open it up. I don’t agree with the decision even though I am a Christian.

        And to also answer the first question, I think actions speak louder than words, too. I think that helping people is what we are to do, and that is why I am moving overseas, to help other people. I don’t say that to say “look at me;” rather to say that I am in agreement that we should reach out and help others.

      • Bob

        Take your preaching and your evil god elsewhere I certainly don’t want to hear it here or anywhere else. Especially in my government. It’s people who proselytize he was talking about and his actions speak volumes as far as prayer. Of course feel free to follow Paulist or any other doctrines if you choose just don’t use my government to push your agenda.

      • Bob

        It is interesting that you choose an Old Testament reference to Chronicles to make your point about prayer in government when chronicles also say God punished David for calling a census typically a government function and killed 70000 people as the punishment. Regardless of their supposed sins murdering tens of thousands on a whelm hardly seems reasonable. Of course that’s just a tiny portion of the deaths so ordered. That said, I’m not interested in discussing the contradictory vagaries of biblical text. Or any other biblical discussions. We agree that prayer if used in government meetings should be open to all faiths and to those of no faith and that’s good enough for me. Blessings on your journey may the deity of your choice or if you have none then may good fortune, peace, love, and light guide your path.

    • CBC

      Jane; I;m missing the point.
      Are you insinuating that a Muslim has what…an evil or ulterior motive?
      There are christians doing any bad thing any particular muslim, pagan, wiccan, or whatever can come up with….it’s the PERSON’s choice not an entire religion..

    • US combat veteran.

      I would be just as upset because I don’t see people based of their religion but based off their motives and intentions.

  • xenubarb

    This is funny. And not funny. People are so superstitious they think a wiccan prayer gonna put the juju on them.
    Right. I hope someday humanity will move on beyond this superstitious nonsense.

  • Sam Schoell

    Let me start by saying that I am a Christian. Jesus said “render unto Caesar the things that are Ceasar’s”. In America that means the separation of church and state. It is a fine line.

  • Nuclear Mike

    HEY!!!
    Where is the story of the Downtown Huntsville vandal attack last night at 0330AM this morning??? How much damage was done at the Belk Hudson Lobby area? How many hurt? How many arrested????
    What is going on in Downtown for these attacks to happen???

  • Bridget McCammon, Pahoa, Hawaii

    I am very proud to be of the Wiccan Faith. I started studying and practicing in 1997. I live in Hawaii and when I look around at all the beauty that I do my best to preserve, I smile. When I see a stray animal and I am successful in helping it, I smile. When I help a homeless person with food or clothing or money, I smile. My smile is the love coming from my heart in my desire to help everyone and everything. When I read things like this I cry. People fear what they dont know or understand. More often than not those who are uneducated in the Wiccan faith wont even hear what we have to say. We are looked upon as devil worshipers, satanists, or just sick people who perform sacrifical offerings by killing things. This is no where near the truth. The basic premise of our faith is to “harm none.” We follow that fully and completely. We give of ourselves and ask for nothin in return. How would everyone feel if we judged you soley based on your religion and not you as a person? That wouldnt be fair would it? I think not. We dont judge other religions because our religion “embraces” religious freedom.

  • Lori

    Channel 19 needs to do a story on Wiccans. They are not Satanists. I had to argue with my own mother about that. If they are going to allow prayers at all, it should be all religions or none. Period. Oh, and I like to consider myself a Christian most of the time, but so many embarrass me with their ignorance and hatred of things they don’t understand.

  • Karen Junker

    I wonder if the council would cancel the prayer by someone of any other faith if unnamed people in the community expressed ‘concern’ — especially if the person were from a majority religion?

  • xander

    the poll is designed to mislead. I don’t think any religion should be allowed to assert itself in our government for any reason, so naturally I would vote that all religions should not be allowed to, but then I’m voting alongside those that think only Christian should be allowed to invoke, when clearly I believe just the opposite of what they believe. #sloppypolling

  • Tommythunderball

    ‘community fears’ and polling driving decisions of our city council?. How progressive!!

  • tom

    I’m actually bothered that we are allowing any group from Wisconsin “attacking” any Alabama resident or city for anything we do. If someone in Wisconsin doesn’t like how we do things…. then stay in Wisconsin and leave us alone.

    • MrMelkor

      Actually the FFRF is a Wisconsin based organization with members nation wide. They don’t “attack” anyone either; when they recurve a complaint about church/state separation not being followed they send a letter informing those responsible of the law and their responsibility to follow it.

  • Brainst0rms

    Was someone or something on Hsv Council meeting agenda that when mixed with Wicca spooked the council?

  • Lea

    All or none. I really hope Huntsville learns their lesson. I’m an Alabama Pagan and if Huntsville insists upon allowing prayer before meetings, then they MUST allow Mr. Kirk his chance. Period. I hope that he contacts the ACLU.

    That said, I hope this is the kick in the (pants) for Huntsville to stop opening their meetings with invocation. While I demand that those of my community be allowed to speak if Christians are (and Muslims, atheists, or anyone else for that matter), I would much rather prayer be left out of it entirely. At this point in our history, prayer is only being used as a way to say “damn the government (despite the fact that we ARE the government), we will be Christian and force you to be, too!” If they had real faith, they would do as their lord commanded and pray quietly together rather than praying loudly from the street corner.

  • Marilee Kushinsky

    How is it, in a country that is suppose to be focusing on teaching it next generation, the dangerous magnitude of selecting individuals , and groups to be ostracized/ bullied, this abomination is allowed? When the same government that preaches zero- tolerance for harassment and bullying, states that “community fears” are justifiable grounds for a city council to behave in such a disrespectful manner….Really makes you wonder why, so many teachers may feel they are fighting a battle in the classroom they cannot win…How do you teach, that it is “illegal to be discriminated upon due age, disability, national origin, race, religion, genetics or sex (gender), or sexual orientation”, when this is the example that is set for them????

  • Ordained Minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    I sent. Formal letter to the city council along with a copy of my ordination from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster requesting permission to give a Pastafarian invocation. If I am not allowed I will file suit against the city.

    Can’t wait to see the looks on the upset Christians when I ask his grace the FSM to touch all present with his “Noodly Appendage” and ask for forgiveness to be granted to the city council for trying to keep a Wiccan from giving prayer, and then end it all with a “rAMEN”

  • Seadonna

    If they want prayer why not just a moment of silence and each person can pray to their own God/Goddess solves all the religious problems

  • David Snyder

    Where the city went wrong was when they “inquired” of him about what his religion was. The city had absolutely no right to even ask, let alone un-invite him from giving the invocation. Public officials have many tasks to perform in the course of their duties, the first of which is protecting and preserving the citizen’s Constitutional rights. There are some thin ice conditions here for city leaders, and the place that I would shift most of the blame to would be the city attorney. In his position, he is to advise the city on issues so as to keep the city’s liability exposure down to a minimum. He epically failed in his job performance as this is a blatant display of religious discrimination and possibly even a violation of the Establishment clause. Who are they, to pick and choose which religions will be “allowed” to present their views of faith and practice? What about basic rights of equal protection under the law and equal access for public venues? This is a prime example of religious intolerance and is quite illegal. What the city attorney should have done was so simple, even a child could do it. When the “concerned” citizen complaints came in, all he had to do was politely refer the complainant to the U.S. Constitution and leave it at that. However, he decided to make it a big mess, cave into made-up fears and hatred and show everyone why he should resign from his position and throw that law degree into file 13.

      • Blake Kirk

        Actually, the inquiry was so that my name and religious affiliation could be entered correctly on the published agenda for the City Council meeting, which is normally posted to the city’s website on Tuesday afternoon for the regular biweekly meeting of the Council on Thursday evening. It was only AFTER the agenda containing my name and identifying me as being Wiccan was published on the city website that objections began to be raised. As I understand the law it was a perfectly acceptable inquiry, because they ask every person offering an invocation the same question, for the same legitimate reason.

      • Bob

        Blake, I think the point where the City Attorney failed was when asked or injected the opinion into the issue of not allowing you to give the Invocation. Especially in light that you had previously given such an invocation. The City wronged you and completely disrespected you and that is something that should never happen in a society where we all exercise the freedom of religious expression. Perhaps a mediation effort will resolve the issue for yourself, that isn’t for me or anyone else to weigh in on, however, the city needs to understand that they crossed a line here and one they should not cross again. The violated your rights as a citizen of this nation and as well as the mentioned disrespect simply because you hold a different religious view than them. I hope all goes well with you and that this situation gets resolved in a manner that while not completely mending the pain can at least lessen it. Brightest Blessings!

  • Carol Kirk

    As one of the founding members of the Wiccan Tradition of which my husband and I are a part once wrote: “Any definition of God is to limit the infinite. All religions have a portion of the infinite, but none have it all. AND if God is infinite, then all religions can be true at the same time. ” We don’t ask that anyone believe as we do, just as we don’t try to tell others what to believe. We ask that our right to believe as we will be respected in return.

    • Bob

      That sounds like a quote I heard repeated once from an online acquaintance I came to respect a great deal her name was Lark. Thank you and your husband for speaking up for us all! Blessings of Peace, Love and Light to you both Carol!

    • Bob

      Well I’ll Be!! Merry Meet old friend! MoAnamCara if you remember. Blessings again and Good Fortune to you and your husband in these very trying times. Huntsville is a good place but as you see it has some antiquated ideas and mores.

  • Petra

    Howdy! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering
    which blog platform are you using for this website?
    I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform.
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  • David

    Just stop having a prayer led at these government meetings. For that matter, thinly veiled “spiritual training” programs like the 7 Habits have no business in our schools, either.

  • Redeemed

    In this country we each have the freedom to follow and practice a religion, non-religion, belief system, or “faith” that we so choose. Whether you choose to worship the One True God and Lord Jesus the Christ, or some false god, or religion, or a celebrity, or an athletic team, or money, or popularity, or sex, or food, or entertainment, or yourself, or even satan, you have that freedom. However, the debate here is about an invocation or opening prayer at a city hall. The person performing this duty is chosen as a representative of the city, town, or community in which the city or town hall is taking place. Thought most people who profess to be “christian” are not really Christians, still a majority of Huntsvillians or those residing in Madison county would say they are a christian or identify with Christianity in some way. Therefore, the person offering up the opening prayer of the city hall should be one who at least claims to be a christian. If I lived in Iran I would expect any type of government meeting to be opened with a prayer to allah since it is a Muslim country. If I lived in Salt Lake City I would expect an invocation to be addressed to Joseph Smith or whoever Mormons pray to since it is a majority Mormon city. Likewise, I would expect an invocation in Huntsville to be addressed to Jesus since the majority here identify with Christianity. That would be my argument against a representative from a religion such as Islam, Buddhism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. giving the invocation. The discussion is involving something even more absurd than this though. We are discussing allowing a Wiccan to offer an invocation up to satan as a representative of this city. I’m fairly certain if you took a poll of the residents of even the most liberal city in this nation that still a vast majority would vote against having someone who worships satan represent them in a city hall meeting. The Wiccan “faith” is one based in witchcraft and satanism. Other religions are based in some form of working your way to Heaven and worship of some false god. All religion is man made and “faith” means absolutely nothing. It’s what or Who your faith is in that matters. I could have all the faith and believe with all my heart that I can fly, but if I jump off of the Burj Khalifa I will plummet to my death because my faith was in a lie. It doesn’t matter what I say or what I believe just as it doesn’t matter what anyone in this post says or believes. All that really matters is the Truth. I encourage you to put off your opinions, beliefs, and traditions and seek what is really true. This is the truth, we can not work our way to Heaven because no amount of “good” deeds will erase our sin. This is why God had to come to us as a Man born of a virgin so that He would not be born into sin and could and would live a sin free life so that He could go to the cross and be a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for the sins of you and me and the world, and not only die for our sins but conquer death and the grave and be raised on the 3rd day and He lives today so that we can put our faith and trust in Him and surrender our lives to Him to do His Will instead of our own that we may inherit eternal life. You can not know this Truth by me telling you though. You must seek it for yourself with an open mind and a sincere heart. 2 Cor 5:21, John 3:16, James 2:19, Romans 10:13, Matt. 7:7

    • avengah

      The same way you know all other religions are false is the same way we know yours is false. If you even bothered to read some of the Wiccans’ comments here, you’d know it has nothing to do with Satan.

      Do you consider yourself open-minded? Please, watch this. You might learn something. http://youtu.be/6nXDzbxhqfE

    • Bob

      The United States is NOT a Christian nation. We have no single national religion. What we have is a system designed to allow “ALL” religions equal representation. We are all allowed to adhere to whatever religion we choose. We can even choose to have no religion. Government has the obligation to treat ALL religions the same. Infact our government is designed to protect minority races, religions, sexes, etc from the will of the majority. We are NOT a democracy contrary to popular opinion. Instead we are a Constitutional Republic. Majority rule does not hold in our nation. You are free to call your God the “one true god” and I am free should I so choose to call mine the same. What happened here is the same attitude Redeemer depicts in their one sided viewpoint. You would exclude all others because you “feel” you are somehow entitled to force your beliefs on others. Thats really sad.

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