Reading Time: 2 minutes

Atheist activist Joseph Richardson delivered an invocation to the Winter Park City Commission last week. When you hear it, maybe you’ll wonder, as I did, why these things are so damn controversial.


YouTube video

Thank you for inviting the Central Florida Freethought Community to provide the invocation for today’s meeting. We’re glad to be here and we appreciate being included.

To most people, government meetings can be uninspired affairs. The governmental machinations necessary to reach a community’s goals can be tedious. But the intent undergirding these proceedings and your participation in them is a noble one that transcends all deliberative actions.

It is in the work you do and in these gatherings that we play out the values developed by organized and civilized society and enshrined in our Constitution. It is here that citizens have the opportunity to speak directly to you about issues that affect their lives. And it is here that you, as representatives of the government, have the honor and responsibility to listen and adjudicate.

Even though the specific actions of this body on this day may seem prosaic, your efforts advance the goals enumerated in the Preamble to the Constitution: establishing justice, promoting liberty, contributing to the general welfare.

With this context in mind, I encourage and exhort each of you to approach today’s deliberations with due reverence and to apply hard data, empathy and compassion to the decisions you face today. Hard data being the evidence that some ideas work and some don’t. Empathy and compassion being the recognition that your decisions affect real people in real ways.

For all you do for the citizens of Winter Park and for this opportunity to speak, we thank you.

“Hard data,” it goes without saying, stands in stark contrast to asking God to make things better.

Just FYI: The Central Florida Freethought Community is organizing several more of these invocations all over the state. You can see their running list — along with a compilation of transcripts of secular invocations around the country — right here.

(Correction: I originally misidentified the city as Winter Garden, not Winter Park. My apologies.)

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.