Atheist to lead invocation at Iowa House Wednesday morning

Published: Apr. 4, 2017 at 9:25 PM CDT
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It will be a day unlike any other Wednesday at the State Capitol. That's because for the first time, an atheist will lead the invocation in the House.

Justin Scott, who's president of the Eastern Iowa Atheists, will open a House chambers work session tomorrow morning.

Scott wants to remind lawmakers of the separation of church and state. And he's working with others across eastern Iowa to do so.

Iowa City's Mayor read a proclamation recognizing the separation of church and state at the beginning of Tuesday's city council meeting. It's part of the National Day of Reason, a secular response to the National of Day of Prayer. Both Eastern Iowa Atheists and Secular Students at University of Iowa were recognized.

"It's designed to let cities renew its commitment to separation of church and state but also recognize the atheist, humanist, free thinker populations," Scott said.

"Since we believe government and religion should be separate we don't think a day of prayer goes with those values so day of reason is representative of America as a whole," Anne-Marie Black said.

This is the first stop for Scott, next is the statehouse. He's prepping for his invocation.

"My whole focus for my innovation is using reason, logic, everything we have in the natural world to make decisions," Scott said.

Scott says he wants lawmakers to put aside religious beliefs or practices when casting votes for future laws. He says it's what's fair to all people.

"We aren't trying to de-convert people. If you want to believe, believe. But once you get in the statehouse that's a time when you need to look at things very carefully, where you're not trying to impose that religious belief on the rest of us," Scott said.

Scott wants lawmakers to know other atheist groups in Iowa exist. And they deserve to be part of the political process.

"What I hope this this is does is allows lawmakers in Des Moines to realize you don't have to be a Christian to open up a work session. You don't have to be part of the majority to invoke good will or success for lawmakers," Scott said.