TAMPA CITY COUNCIL - Mitch Perry

07/29/04

Controversy erupted this morning at the very beginning of today’s Tampa City Council meeting, just before an atheist was scheduled to give the invocation, which opens every meeting.

Last month City Councilman John Dingfelder, whose turn it was to choose somebody to begin the Meeting with traditionally has been a nondenomational prayer from a reverend or rabbi, announced that Michael Harvey from the group Atheists of Florida, would give the invocation for this morning’s Meeting.

But just before Harvey stepped up to microphone to deliver the invocation, City Councilman Kevin White broke in, (roll tape#1 o.q.�that I represent�) White said he had seen a television report last night where Harvey said he would speak about WHY there shouldn’t be an invocation….

Councilmember Linda Saul-Sena said she couldn’t support White’s Motion…. She discussed the historical background in how Councilmembers were given the right to choose people to give the Invocation at Council meetings…..And She defended the right of Harvey to speak (roll tape#2 “in a particular way�)

Then Councilmember Dingfelder – who had chosen Harvey, reacted viscerally,
saying that banning an atheist from speaking was tantamount to censorship.(roll tape#3 o.q.�of content�)

The City Council’s Attorney then said in order for Councilmember White’s Motion to pass , the vote would have to be unanimous…..It was only supported by Councilmember Mary Alvarez…

Although Councilmember Rose Ferlita voted against White’s motion, she went on to say why she agreed with his intent (roll tape#4 o.q.�we should not be�)

Finally, after 20 minutes of these type of exchanges, Councilmember Shawn Harrison, acting as the Chair, brought up Michael Harvey from the group Atheists of Florida… But about halfway through his invocation – Harrison interrupted him (roll tape#5 o.q.�let’s proceed�)

Which Harvey did for the next minute and a half. . .

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