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WAVERLY — Mayor Charles Infelt said he would be open to having an atheist organizer give a secular invocation at a future Waverly City Council meeting.

Infelt called The Courier recently to clarify the comments he made in response to Justin Scott’s questions at a recent council meeting asking if an atheist could give the official “prayer” that is done by Infelt at the beginning of each meeting.

Scott organizes an activist group, Eastern Iowa Atheists, and previously requested and did a similar secular invocation at a Waterloo City Council meeting last year.

Infelt stood by his original statement about his prayer being “theistic” and not specific to one religion, but said that wasn’t meant to suggest Scott couldn’t give an invocation.

“I didn’t say (Scott) couldn’t do something,” Infelt said. “I’m more than open. ... He’s more than welcome. I was taking affront to his critique of me.”

In a phone conversation Saturday, Infelt began by saying he still felt his prayer was open to all because he’s “never invoked Christ’s name” and Scott “can just meditate. ... He can just appreciate what’s being said without having a theistic anchor to it.”

But later in the conversation he seemed to revise his stance, saying Scott or another atheist from Waverly would perhaps be able to deliver an invocation.

“In the opening, when we have the public comments, I was thinking he would be sure welcome to do it at that time,” Infelt said, before noting it might be possible “we could do it during a regular invocation.”

He said he hasn’t contacted Scott, and Scott hasn’t contacted him since the contentious meeting.

“I wasn’t saying he wasn’t welcome,” Infelt said. “Atheists are wonderful people and they do wonderful things, and they’re certainly welcome.”

Scott said Saturday he was “pleased to hear of his change of heart,” but he still wanted Infelt to apologize publicly for comments that atheists should “essentially sit back and be quiet during mayor-led Christian prayers.”

“Does he understand how offensive it was and how it perpetuated bigotry against atheists by demanding that atheists deliver their statements only during the public comment section?” Scott asked.

He said he had more questions about the manner in which an atheist would be allowed to give the invocation, but did not specify whether he would reach out to Infelt on the matter.


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