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This is the opening invocation delivered by Michael R. Harvey of Atheists of Florida at a meeting of the Tampa City Council in July 2004:
An invocation is an appeal for guidance from a supernatural power, but it is not only that. It is also a call, a petition, to positive action on behalf of and for a diverse citizenry. On behalf of Atheists of Florida, I would like to express our gratitude in being invited to deliver today's invocation.
We are committed to the separation of state and church as defined by the United States Constitution. It is the core value of that remarkable and visionary document to protect the human-derived rights of all people in the continuous struggle for equal opportunities to pursue a safe and decent quality of life.
When an invocation takes on the form of public prayer, it is also a violation of the very principles upon which our country and Constitution were founded. Although we are dismayed that the practice of public prayer by governing bodies charged with representing all citizens still continues in violation of the Constitution, we also recognise that this practice has become deeply embedded in the national psyche.
Elected and appointed leaders who wish to seek the guidance of a deity can do so in private, as is their right. But not in the public arena where the establishment of religion is an assured end-result.
History - that ever-unfolding, ever-flowering story of human civilisation - teaches us that the rights and accomplishments of humanity are the results of its past struggles, and that the road less travelled is many times the highest path to human progress. We therefore invoke this council and all of our leaders to be guided and inspired by the invaluable lessons of history, the honest insights of science, the guileless wisdom of logic, and the heart and soul of our shared humanity - compassion and tolerance.
So rather than clasping your hands, bowing your heads and closing your eyes, open your arms to that which truly makes us strong - our diversity. Raise your heads and open your eyes to recognise and fully understand the problems before you and know that ultimately, solutions to human problems can come only from human beings.