At least one person spoke some sense at last night's Rapid City city hall prayer meeting:
Only two of the 15 people who testified Monday opposed the prayers before council meetings. Cole Bedford, a senior at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, asked the council to have a moment of silence in lieu of a sectarian prayer.
"This is not a challenge to anyone's faith. It's an appeal to your empathy" said Bedford, an atheist who grew up in Sturgis attending church. He added that in a predominantly Christian region, it's important for a non-Christian to know they have an equal voice in government, a message that holding religious prayers does not send [Aaron Orlowski, "Council Voices Wholehearted Support for Prayers," Rapid City Journal, 2013.02.05].
Ah, but all that talk of empathy and inclusion just makes Bedford a bully:
The council vowed without exception to fight back against Freedom From Religion, dubbing the group outsider bullies.
"I don't like being bullied. I don't like my children being bullied," council member Chad Lewis said. "I don't think (praying) hurts anybody. I don't see where it's actually offending anybody" [Orlowski, 2013.02.05].
If praying doesn't hurt anybody, I invite Councilman Lewis to come watch me open my French class in my public classroom with some atheist exhortation, or perhaps with a hearty "Allahu akbar!" We'll see how that pricks his majoritarian-Christian conscience.
Encouraged by promises of financial support from citizens reveling in their public pocketbook piety, the Rapid City City Council voted 6 to 3 to draft a policy on prayer at meetings, a move that will constitute local government officially establishing a religion. Freedom from Religion Foundation, get ready to wrestle.