UPDATED: 10:41 p.m., July 6, 2017.
— Editor's Note: This is atheist activist Justin Scott's invocation at the July 6 Oskaloosa City Council Meeting. Check the Herald print edition on Monday for extra coverage and a full story. Oskaloosa Herald Staff Writers Angie Holland and Megan Showers attended the meeting.
OSKALOOSA — Eastern Iowa Atheist Director Justin Scott gave a "secular invocation" before the City Council meeting on Thursday, July 6.
Scott said it was an honor to deliver the first ever inclusive invocation at an Oskaloosa City Council meeting. He invited those listening to sit, stand, face whichever direction they wished as he spoke.
Nearly a dozen members of the community were present for the meeting.
Three members of the City Council rose, as is custom for the invocations, while the rest remained seated. The public also reacted in mixed fashion, many remaining seated.
"Tonight, as many of you have figured out, I will not be invoking a higher power," he said. "Instead, I will be pointing out some powers all of us have, thanks to the wonders of human evolution, to do the most good for the most number of people right here in beautiful Oskaloosa."
Oskaloosa residents Liz Colton, Mary Anne Fawcett, Jim North, Betty De Boef and Jimmy Carter offered their opinions on Scott's invocation during the time for public comment.
Here is the text of Scott's invocation:
JUSTIN SCOTT: "Good evening. On behalf of the Eastern Iowa Atheists and the rising number of atheists and other non-religious citizens across Oskaloosa and Iowa, thank you for this opportunity.
"It is an honor to be delivering the first ever inclusive invocation at an Oskaloosa City Council meeting, honoring both the constitution of Iowa and the United States."
"Tonight's invocation is dedicated to Iona Loonie and to anybody else across Eastern Iowa or Iowa that have ever stood up for equality in their communities but have been told to look the other way or move out."
"First, for everybody to remain as comfortable as you'd like; stay standing or remain seated, whatever you feel comfortable with. I'd like to build on the idea of counselor Ver Steeg by encouraging all of you to face any direction you choose, bow your heads or keep your chin up; and feel free to either keep your eyes open or shut, whichever you wish, as you will not offend me however you choose to enjoy my invocation."
"Regardless of what you choose, I appreciate your presence in this chamber tonight."
"Let us begin."
"Tonight, as many of you have figured out, I will not be invoking a higher power. Instead, I will be pointing out some powers all of us have thanks to the wonder of human evolution, to do the most good for the most number of people right here in beautiful Oskaloosa."
"I encourage everyone to harness these powers in every discussion invoked tonight."
"First, the power to empathize with those that are different from you; that have taken a different path than you, that experienced and continue to experience different struggles than yours. The human power to embrace diversity in your community, seeing it not as a threat but as an opportunity to learn and grow as neighbors. The human power to strive for inclusion in your city government. It is here to work for all citizens but only if you demand more from it. The human power to demand justice from your own city, as we are all, in one way or another, all minorities."
"When it comes to making the right decisions for the city of Oskaloosa, decisions that ensure the rights and freedoms of all citizens were upheld and protected, this chamber must demand more than appeals to the supernatural but rather rely only on taking an evidence-based approach to all decisions."
"Lastly, this chamber should not operate as merely a grouping of individuals looking out for themselves, but rather relying on one another, celebrating all that makes us different and yet at the same time, so much the same. The human power of attempting to do the most good for the most number of people is the best power that any of us have; always using our reason and critical thinking skills to do so."
— Transcribed from recording by Herald Staff Writer Angie Holland.
So in closing, it is my pleasure to leave with you the lasting words of Robert Ingersoll, one of the greatest orators our country has ever produced. "Happiness is the only good; the time to be happy is now; the place to be happy is here; the way to be happy is make others so."