Atheist chooses Harry Potter over Bible quotes for council's invocation

Secular prayer offered in South Dakota city council.

Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, and Emma Watson star in a scene from the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, out Wednesday.AP

A South Dakota city council meeting was opened Tuesday with a secular prayer that contained a Hollywood reference.

Sioux Falls resident and atheist Amanda Novotny read from J.K. Rowling's popular novel, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" after addressing the council and other citizens in attendance.

"Lift your head up and look around," she said, according to Raw Story.  "Turn your attention to this room — a room that has heard countless discussions, frustrations, and successes; a room where important decisions regarding your city are routinely made.

"Think of the hundreds and thousands of others who are also affected by the ideas shared here. Let all voices be heard and understood equally."

She then quoted a "Harry Potter" character, Professor Albus Dumbledore – headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: "Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."

Novotny concluded by asking "those present to join me in showing gratitude to the men and women that serve the great city of Sioux Falls."

The nontheistic invocation leader is the president of the Siouxland Freethinkers, "a community of atheists, agnostics, humanists, and skeptics" in the Sioux Falls area.

City councils across the country have allowed atheists, Wiccans, humanists, and many others to lead non-Christian prayers after a May Supreme Court decision allowed invocations in town meetings.

"For too long the invocations at these meetings were invitation only affairs, as if the public space was a private club," atheist Dan Courtney wrote on Facebook. "The result was over a decade of solely Christian prayer."

Courtney led a secular prayer last month in Greece, New York – the town at the center of the Supreme Court decision.

Town supervisor William Reilich said that a variety of belief systems have been represented since the case closed.

"It's not unusual that we have diversity," he told the Associated Press. "It's whoever comes up from the community."

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