HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Nearly a week to the day after the Huntsville City Council told a local Wiccan spiritual leader he could not give an invocation before their meeting due to “community fears,” District 4 Councilman Bill Kling says he had no clue about the situation until after we broke the story later on whnt.com.
Kling spoke exclusively with WHNT Wednesday. He says since our story broke, he has received emails and phone calls from residents over the controversy. Now he wants to clear the air about his involvement in the decision-making process to un-invite Blake Kirk to speak at the meeting Thursday.
“No one on the city council or the city attorneys office talked to me either before, during or after the meeting,” Kling said Wednesday. “In fact I found out by reading the Channel 19 story on AL.com. I think it was about an hour or so after the meeting. That was the first time I knew there was something going on with this,” Kling says.
According to the city attorney, “community fears,” prompted the invitation to be revoked. But Kling says he personally did not receive any community input about the invocation leading up to last Thursday’s meeting.
“This does not really reflect the way I want to see the Huntsville City Council go. If there was a determination that it would not have been appropriate to invite the gentleman, that should have been determined before the invitation was issued,” Kling said.
WHNT News 19 also spoke with three other candidates running for spots on the board. District Four challenger and community activist Jackie Reed says the board should have let him speak and needs to invite him back to do so in the future.
In the District three race, Jennie Robinson refused an on camera interview, but says the issue is one for the current council and mayor to resolve. Her challenger, Walt Hennessee, says the council should not pick and choose who they allow to give the invocation. If the religion is one that is recognized by our government then they should be welcome to speak, Hennessee added.
As of Wednesday at 9:00 p.m., numerous phone calls and emails to other council members, city attorneys, and the mayor’s office have gone unanswered.
Since this story broke, more than seven thousand people have shared it on Facebook, with dozens of national media outlets also reporting on the situation in the Rocket City.
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.