LUBBOCK, Texas (KLBK) — It’s been a standing tradition for the Lubbock City Council to begin every meeting with an invocation, but Thursday will be the first time the invocation will be lead by an atheist.
“This is simply us standing up, and saying that we are a part of this community, and that others shouldn’t be afraid of us,” said Tracey Michelle Benefield, a member of Atheist Community of Lubbock.
The group said their invocation won’t consist of a prayer but will be just as meaningful.
“There will be no prayer instead we will be calling upon ideas like ‘compassion’ and ‘wisdom’ to guide our city council members in their meetings,” Benefield said. “A prayer is a way you can do an invocation, but it’s not the same thing.”
The Atheist Community of Lubbock first approached the Mayor’s office in October, and have been negotiating since then for their chance at the invocation.
“The Constitution protects the lady who is going to speak at our meeting,” said Mayor Dan Pope. “Just like how it would protect a Muslim Imam or a Jewish rabbi, all freedom of speech is allowed.”
Both groups agree the invocation might raise some eyebrows, but hope everyone will keep an open mind.
“I understand how an atheist opening our meeting with invocation could fly over some people,” Pope said. “I don’t understand it myself.”
Benefield said she thinks people will be surprised if they just listen.
“I understand their skepticism, but I stand by that this is a good thing, and if you have the courage to listen you may be pleasantly surprised,” Benefield said.