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Elections have consequences, and in Radford, Virginia, a new city council took immediate action to get rid of Christian prayers at meetings.

For the past several months, the Radford City Council has opened its meetings with Christian prayers — and only Christian prayers.

During council meetings in recent months, the pre-meeting invocation was usually given by the Rev. John McCandlish, a Lutheran minister, or Jim Henegar, a volunteer firefighter and chaplain for the fire department, and often began with the words “let us pray” and ended with “amen.”

In a pinch, a former council member, Keith Marshall, would give the blessing. Marshall, who made his Christian faith a pillar of his recent campaign for mayor…

It says “pre-meeting invocation” in the article, but you can see from a recent agenda that the invocation was clearly considered part of the meeting.

You can also tell that atheists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Pagans, Satanists, and even other Christians had no ability to deliver an invocation at these meetings. It was predetermined that a certain Christian would deliver it, whether it was a minister, a chaplain, or a Christian council member.

But then the elections happened.

Keith Marshall, the go-to prayer-giver, was defeated in his campaign for mayor by David Horton. Two women, Naomi Huntington (below) and Jessie Critterton, were also elected to the five-member council.

And when the new council met earlier this week, one of the first orders of business was a motion from Huntington to replace the invocation with a moment of reflection. It was easy to see the change in discussion:

“We want to set a tone for our meetings that everyone is welcome here, no matter what your faith is,” Huntington said. “By having a moment of reflection, it allows you to worship or not worship and reflect on what you believe is appropriate at the time in your own way.”

“While we’re talking about being more inclusive, it’s not just people of all denominations. There are some people that could be agnostic or atheist and we represent them as well,” Critterton said. “Those who wish to pray, we certainly don’t want to take that away from them. But we just want to make sure that everyone has that moment to center and balance themselves in a way they feel is appropriate.

(You can hear the audio of their discussion right here between 5:25 and 13:40.)

After they debated the issue, they took a vote. It was 4-1. All three of the new council members voted in favor of the change.

Elections matter. In this case, they saved the town from what could have been a costly lawsuit.

(Image via Facebook. Thanks to Brian for the link)

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.

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