The mayor of Lake Worth and a handful of commissioners walked out as an atheist was about to give an invocation before a meeting last week.
Like many cities, the commission allows a religious invocations to be given before holding their meetings. But as atheist Preston Smith walked up to the podium to begin his invocation, Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo and three city commissioners got up and left the chambers.
"Duly noted," Smith said as they walked out. Triolo's explanation for leaving wasn't over Smith being an atheist but over an offensive tweet the mayor says Smith tweeted out earlier this year.
Video of the mayor and commissioners walking out on Smith before his invocation has been getting thousands of hits on YouTube since last week.
On the video, Smith begins his invocation by saying, "Our collective atheism -- which is to say, loving empathy, scientific evidence, and critical thinking -- leads us to believe that we can create a better, more equal community without religious divisions. May we pray together."
Mayor Tirolo hadn't addressed the walkout until Monday, when she spoke to WPTV.
"I didn't leave because Mr. Smith is an atheist; I left because of his alleged tweet," she said.
The tweet Tirolo referenced was from July, when Smith tweeted out an offensive interpretation of a biblical Scripture from Deuteronomy. Smith sent the tweet to a Chicago Tea Party activist named C. Steven Tucker after he wrote a blog post calling for Obama's impeachment.
You can see a screen grab of the tweet below, which has since been deleted from Smith's account:
At the time, the tweet riled up several conservative news sites and blogs.
"Free speech works both ways," Triolo said about her walking out. "You can say what you want, and I can choose to leave."
Commissioner Christopher McVoy stayed for Smith's invocation and called his fellow commissioners' walking out "un-American."
Smith was granted permission to do the invocation back in July. He chose a date in December because it was during the Christmas holidays.
The scene of commissioners' walking out unfolded not unlike when an Escambia County commissioner stormed out when David Suhor, an agnostic pagan pantheist, gave his invocation at a commission meeting back in October.
The commissioner, Wilson Robertson, called the pagan invocation "satanic."
"When we invite someone, a minister, to pray, they are praying for the county commissioners, for us to make wise decisions, and I'm just not going to have a pagan or satanic minister pray for me," Commissioner Wilson Robertson said at the time.
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