Wiccan says he was barred from giving invocation

By The Associated Press | Posted - Jun. 27, 2014 at 7:30 a.m.

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A member of the Wiccan faith says he was set to give the opening invocation at a Huntsville City Council meeting until the plan was publicized and he was asked about his faith. He was then told he was no longer invited.

When the agenda for Thursday's meeting was made public Tuesday, citizens called to voice concerns, Huntsville City Attorney Peter Joffrion told WHNT-TV.

The agenda said the invocation would be given by "Reverend Blake Kirk, Priest of the Oak, Ash And Thorn Tradition of Wicca."

Kirk said he was then confronted and asked about his faith, which he acknowledged. Kirk says he was then told he was no longer invited to give the invocation.

"It is not right," Kirk told the Huntsville station. "The city cannot pick and choose what faiths they want to support and allow to speak and give the prayer."

The Huntsville City Council has a long-standing tradition of opening meetings with prayer. But the practice drew criticism by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2012, and the city then made an effort to include more faiths.

"Although this has been an attempt by the city to increase the diversity of those delivering the invocations, apparently diversity only goes so far," Kirk told Al.com.

Kirk delivered the invocation at the Jan. 23 city council meeting and he said there were no objections or discussion before that meeting. The agenda for that meeting made no mention of the Wiccan faith, describing Kirk as a "leader in earth-based spiritual communities."

Joffrian did not immediately return a phone call Friday morning from The Associated Press.

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