Battle over invocation before commission meeting

Winter Garden city commissioners have made it clear they want an invocation before meetings, because the U.S. Supreme Court says they can do it.  The debate continued Thursday night over who is allowed to say those prayers or comments.

David Williamson expressed his frustration with commissioners at Thursday's meeting. Williamson is with an atheist group pushing city leaders to allow the group to say the invocation for a commission meeting.  "If the purpose of this resolution is not personal, if the purpose is not religious, then it's up to you to convince us otherwise," he told the board.

Commissioners voted unanimously on the new rule. It says not-for-profit groups from Winter Garden can lead the invocation.  "From our standpoint, it is resolved. We have made a decision. All we did tonight is clarify what the group is," said Michael Bollhoefer. "It's simply that, and we are moving forward with this resolution."

The Central Florida Freethought Community, or CFFC, has been pushing city leaders since May 2014 to let the group give a secular invocation; it still has not happened. CFFC member Joseph Richardson believes the city will continue to refuse to let him do it. Richardson says the CFFC is about being treated equally.

"It matters, because it's the right thing to do. If there are people tired of hearing it, I'm sorry, but it's the right thing to do," Richardson said. 

The city has a list of people interested in leading the invocation. CFFC says it has a member on that list. City Commissioner select people from the list to lead the invocation.  "Three or four months ago, we chose someone representing the Atheist Group of Winter Garden to do an invocation."

The free thought group said a lawsuit against the city has always been an option, but they hope to resolve the issue by talking directly to city leaders.