Secular Invocation Resources
Below, you’ll find examples of secular invocations, or skip to the bottom of this page to read the legal memorandum outlining the constitutionality of secular invocations prepared by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
Juan Mendez, member of the Arizona House of Representatives, delivered a humanist invocation to the Arizona House of Representatives on May 21, 2013.
Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask you not to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people of our state.
This room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, as my Secular Humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love.
Carl Sagan once wrote, ‘For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.’ There is, in the political process, much to bear. In this room, let us cherish and celebrate our shared humanness, our shared capacity for reason and compassion, our shared love for the people of our state, for our Constitution and for our democracy — and let us root our policymaking process in these values that are relevant to all Arizonans regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. In gratitude and in love, in reason and in compassion, let us work together for a better Arizona.
Invocation for meeting by Humanist Minister Ross Hamilton Henry
The great Ashoka, Buddhist Emperor of the Mauryan Empire in India around 2200 years ago wrote on one of his famous rock edicts:
“It is forbidden to decry another’s religion. The truly religious give honor to whatever in them is worthy of honor.”
It is implied in this statement that it is permitted to ‘decry’ or speak out against whatever in them is not worthy of honor.
Among the things we believe not worthy of honor is the rejection and condemnation of others who do not believe exactly as we believe even though those others may be good and kind and caring people who hold no hateful or unethical beliefs.
As we begin our thanksgiving celebration let us be mindful of these wise words from a truly tolerant and wise ruler. Let us adopt these words as our guide as we begin our deliberations today and show by the example of mutual understanding and cooperation between the religious organizations represented here that we believe that the Truly Religious stand for cooperation understanding and acceptance among all the people in our diverse culture.
Let it be our hope and our mission to spread this spirit to all the people of our community no matter what religious sect they proclaim.
Dan Nerren, founder of Atheist Community of Tulsa, made history by being the first atheist to give an invocation at the Tulsa City Council Meeting on August 30, 2012.
Let us open our hearts to the welfare of all people in our community by respecting the inherent dignity and worth of each person, and realize our differences of race, religion, and party affiliation are merely superficial. Our common humanity unites us all, and may we recognize that through our interdependence we share a common fate.
In order to achieve the greatest good as citizens of Tulsa, it is important for us to maintain an open mind, and honor and respect the human rights of each other. We should consider the benefit provided by differing perspectives, and be willing to question assumptions that serve only to obstruct our path to progress.
Rather than bowing our heads and closing our eyes in deference, we should open our eyes widely to face the reality that confronts us, without losing sight of our ideals of what we could achieve.
Through the prudent use of reason and compassion we can ensure the success of this great city.
Lastly, we must remember that in the face of adversity we need not look above for answers, but instead recognize the proven potential within ourselves and in each other to overcome any challenges we face.
Robert Ray, president of The Humanists of the North Puget Sound and humanist celebrant, gave the first ever Humanist opening invocation at the Oak Harbor city council meeting on February 4, 2014.
Thank you Mayor and council members for this opportunity to provide an inspirational start to your meeting.Normally you would bow your heads for an invocation in this chamber, but I am going to ask that you raise your eyes and think about a few things today.
When this body comes together to govern, they do so with the consent of the citizens of Oak Harbor. Oak Harbor is a very diverse community with many different views and opinions.
My Secular Humanism, which is to say, reason and science lead me to believe that we, as humans, can meet the challenges of these differences and create a society with less dissension and leave a better, more equal culture for future generations.
It is incumbent upon this council to make the best decisions for the community. In this regard, I ask that you use reason, wisdom and empathy in your deliberations today. To take into account the implications your decisions will have now and in the future. We should all plant an acorn, even though we may not live to hear the wind rush through its leaves or the joyous laughter of children playing in the comfort of its shade. We plant the seed for the benefit of future generations.
In the words of Bertrand Russell, in order to do our part “One must care about a world one will not see.”
Joe Alaimo of the Western Colorado Atheists & Freethinkers delivered the first non-denominational invocation to the Grand Junction City Council on January 5, 2011.
Chris Allen, president of Florida Humanist Association and humanist celebrant and chaplain, delivered a secular invocation at the Orlando City Council meeting on June 23,2014.
Let us give thanks for all that we have, cherish and possess–especially for the capacity to care and love, to improve ourselves, our families and community.
Whatever one’s viewpoint, either derived from faith or from reason informed by science, having the capacity to appreciate and thank others is ingrained in the DNA of The Human Condition.
We give thanks to the volunteers, the heart and soul of our community, who donate their time and talents to help the less fortunate.
And, in this setting, let’s recognize and laud the sacrifices made by many government workers, especially firefighters and police officers who risk their lives to safeguard others, no matter where residents live or if they are rich or poor.
Understanding the awesome responsibility of public service, we thank you, the mayor and city council members for using compassion and fairness, and for not acting for personal gain, or out of fear or favor.
As citizens and voters, we possess great hope that our elected officials make choices that give all people in this community, to the extent they can, an opportunity to achieve The American Dream…and to help build a greater Orlando.
On September 8th 2014, Humanist Celebrant, Robert Ray, delivered the first humanist invocation to the Marysville Washington city council meeting.
First off, let me thank you for the opportunity to provide a Humanist Invocation to begin your deliberations today. As this body convenes to do the business of the city, instead of lowering your heads in prayer, I suggest that you look ahead, with anticipation and enthusiasm, for the task set before you. A task charged to you by the people of Marysville.
As stated in the first section of our state constitution “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.” Within that statement is what I believe to be the foundation for all representative democracy. As Jefferson once stated “I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but the people…”
Humanists, by their very nature, believe that we have the power to solve all problems within ourselves, through science and reason. And, that by applying this science and reason with the strength found in empathy and compassion for our fellow travelers on this Spaceship Earth, we can overcome any hurdle we encounter.
The city of Marysville, having a very diverse and, at times, disparate population, requires a government that is truly inclusive and tolerant; with that, the secular citizens of this city ask that you make your decisions today, and all the days to come, based on the principles we all hold within ourselves. Principles that revere the nature and responsibility of humanity to improve the plight of others.
We would also ask that you find common ground with your counterparts to bring about compromise that will benefit all. While this, at times, is an arduous and seemingly ceaseless endeavor, it is one of the most rewarding.
I leave you today with a few words of inspiration.The greatest thing one person can give to another is happiness. This gift has the same effect on both the giver and the receiver. Be the giver and you in turn become the recipient.
Or as stated by the great agnostic Robert Green Ingersoll: “Justice is the only worship. “Love is the only priest. Ignorance is the only slavery. Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now, The place to be happy is here,The way to be happy is to make others so.”
Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, was invited to give at the Interfaith Inaugural Celebration for new Boston Mayor Martin Walsh on January 5, 2014, at Old South Church in Boston. A transcript of his remarks is below.
Mayor-Elect Walsh, and distinguished and honored guests of all backgrounds and beliefs: it is my great honor, on behalf of the Humanist, secular, and nontheistic community, to share this poem, “To Be of Use,” by contemporary Massachusetts poet Marge Piercy, in honor of the important work you and all of us will soon be called to do.
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
Ted Utchen, member of the Humanists of West Suburban Chicagoland, delivered a secular invocation to the Wheaton City Council in Illinois on June 2, 2014. A transcript of his remarks is below.
I am here tonight to give a non-sectarian secular invocation that will reflect the fact that we are now a diverse community of members of many faiths and of none, as our president reminds us. So let us be welcoming and accepting of all. And now my invocation:
Let us rise each morning, and strive each day, to do only that which brings happiness and joy to others, and let us avoid doing things that cause others hurt and pain. Let us use our minds and our reason to encourage behavior based on the mutuality and reciprocity inherent in human relationships, and let us always respect the dignity and worth of each other. And let us, above all, love one another, not to obtain rewards for ourselves now or hereafter or to avoid punishment, but rather always to bring each other contentment and peace. Sol be it.
For an example of a secular invocation that is inclusive, although given by someone identified as representing a humanist viewpoint, read this article by Herb Silverman. Herb Silverman delivered a humanist invocation to the Charleston City Council in 2003.
Secular Invocations: Legal Memorandum
The constitutional requirements governing legislative prayers require local government entities to authorize non-theistic invocations whenever theistic invocations are authorized. Click here to read the legal memorandum (PDF 133KB, Updated 5/5/2014), drafted by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, regarding the constitutionality of secular invocations.