John Thoreau, an atheist, remained seated.
As the first syllable of the invocation was uttered, Mayor Rees told everyone to hold up a moment because Thoreau was still sitting down.
Then the conversation between Rees and Thoreau escalated. It has now become a national news story.
What do the atheists really want? Is it only, as they say, to be free from religion? Or is it more and different than their talking points?
TIME says the regular meeting at the Winter Garden, Florida city council meeting was opened with an invitation for every one to rise. Then it went like this:
Rees: We're waiting for everyone to rise.
Thoreau: Sorry, are you waiting for me?
Thoreau: I don't have to.
Rees: Well we appreciate...you may rise or leave the room as we give our prayer and our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
Thoreau: I don't believe I have to do that, thank you.
Rees: I believe you have to...
Rees didn't press it and the invocation was given. Then it was time for the Pledge...and the conversation began again.
Rees: Now, sir please stand while we do the Pledge...please stand. Children have to do it in school, too.
Thoreau: Yes, and they don't have to be there...
Rees: This is respect for our country.
Thoreau: I understand that sir.
Rees: You have one of two choices, sir. You may please stand for the Pledge. You don't have to say it. Please stand.
Thoreau: I don't have to do that.
Audience member: Just stand up man.
Rees: [I'm] asking you to either stand or please be escorted out [as we do ] the Pledge. It's just not fair to our troops and people overseas, sir.
Cop: What do you want me to do? Do you want to stand or leave?
The cop escorted Thoreau out of the room. Now atheists from around the country are converging on Winter Garden.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (headed up by a former evangelical preacher) has written a letter to the city. The letter is a threat of lawsuit and it gives specific instruction for the remedy.
The letter says, "Mayor Rees ought to explain that citizens are within their rights to remain sitting for the Pledge and it does not reflect a lack of patriotism..." And that "Police Chief George Brennan should make a similar statement."
A number of other atheists are joining Thoreau and will be "sitting" in the next city council meeting, refusing to stand.
Is the freedom to "sit" while others stand really what this is about? I think there is much more at play.
The atheist will tell you he is attempting to be free from the influences of religion, yet he is standing on a religious principle of freedom in demanding his rights. Our system of laws and rights are taken primarily from the teaching of Scripture, and the concept of having "rights" is one that attributes that right to God Himself, while charging our government to protect those God-given rights.
It's interesting that "John Thoreau" is not the atheist's real name. He is being protected from scorn in the community by using an assumed name.
The atheist philosophy assumes more than just a fictitious name.
Dr. Jim Ryan and a colleague has launched a response to the atheist organization Freedom From Religion Foundation. They call their organization Freedom From Atheism Foundation says since the "Cult of Reason" in the French Revolution organized movements of atheists have been brutally repressive toward those who do not share their views.
He says the so-called "New Atheists" claim to be promoting science and reason to replace the old ideas of "God."
Their intolerance is growing, not decreasing, with the goal of eradicating those religions and religious beliefs that differ from their own.
These New Atheists are far more aggressive than in recent generations in America.
Hemant Mehta who wrote the article for TIME, linked above, is the chairman of the atheist organization "Foundation Beyond Belief." His latest book is titled, "The Young Atheists Survival Guide" that is self described as a "how to" manual for shutting down religious expression and "dealing with teachers and administrators who promote faith in public schools."
The collection of atheists and atheist organizations gathering around this incident say, "Our hope is that this will be an opportunity to educate officials and citizens across the country."
As we watch this so-called "freedom" movement unfold, we see angry people disrupting the course of events in public places to make their point---"there is no God, and we will not allow you to recognize Him."
If He doesn't exist, why all the effort?
The focus seems to be primarily on the God of the Bible. The God Christians love and serve. Not all gods.
Science is the god of the New Atheists. Science when made a religion, tells us all the things in life over which we have no influence---like character, or circumstances. The god of science says the random events will ultimately determine the choices and actions we take.
Severing that god takes from the individual options and hope, declaring that any "personal choice" is an illusion.
We call it secular progressivism and fatalism.
In the worship of this "non-god"-god, there are no fixed points in life---no sense of what is normal and what is not. No absolutes. In the extreme, it removes the ability to chose right from wrong---or at least the basis for those choices.
Yet Psychiatry teaches that fixed points are necessary for good mental health and a sense of security and well being.
Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly." He also said, "You shall know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.
Christianity provides for all our needs to be met. Mental, social, emotional, physical and most importantly---spiritual. That is true freedom.
If atheism's god is science and linear scientific truth about life, that "truth" will never set them free. Anger will be their substitute for joy. And rebellion will be their motivation.
The "freedom" they say they seek is found only in Christ, the Son of God, and His eternal principles and values.
Be Informed. Be Thankful. Be Blessed.