Butte County atheists claim city council is ignoring them

Should atheists be permitted to offer invocation?

CHICO, Calif. - A group of atheists in Butte County want to offer their own invocation prior to Chico city council meetings, and they say it's their right.  However, they claim their repeated requests have been ignored by the city's two previous mayors.

George Gold, an atheist and the president of the Butte County Coalition of Reason, said he's asked Chico Mayor Scott Gruendl repeatedly if his group could give an invocation at a future City Council meeting.

"We're part of the community," said Gold when asked why he wanted his group to give an invocation usually delivered by people of faith. "Non-believers make up 20 percent of the population; that's 16,000 people in the City of Chico."

Gold and an attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin provided several letters to Gruendl and former mayor, Mary Goloff, that they say have been ignored.  Gold declined to speculate on why that might be.

Recently the U.S. Supreme Court upheld prayers at local government meetings so long as no persuasion is denied.  Gold said that includes non-believers.

"We need to be all-inclusive," he said. "We want to tell people that what's important is justice, logic and reason."

Gold says that he'd prefer no one offer invocations prior to city council meetings.  But if the council insists on having them he wants his message delivered too.

We left a message with Mayor Scott Gruendl, but it has yet to be returned.

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