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Jacksonville City Council allows first-ever secular invocation

After a vocal campaign urging the Jacksonville City Council to observe a landmark decision on public prayer, history of sorts was made last night when the Council allowed its first-ever secular invocation to be delivered.

Doing the honors was Earl Coggins of the First Coast Freethought Society, an atheist.

According to the Society, the campaign involved “repeated e-mails to City Council president, council members, and support staff, urging them to obey the law, subsequent to the Town of Greece v Galloway decision, and imploring them to respect the diversity in Jacksonville.”

Greece v Galloway was a 2014 5-4 Supreme Court decision in which the high court decided that the town of Greece, New York could allow volunteer chaplains to open each legislative session with a prayer. Plaintiffs arguing for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State had argued the prayers violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment.

The issue of sectarian prayer has flared up time and again at Jacksonville City Council, with advocates in recent years arguing vocally for an inclusive practice that allows all faiths, or even no faith, to be rotated through the invocation opportunity.


Written By

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at

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