TAMPA – Across America, many local government meetings begin with public prayers but a Tampa city council meeting recently started out with members leaving because of the invocation.
Atheist Michael Harvey (search ) was about to give the invocation at a Tampa City Council meeting when some members became angry. A debate continued for nearly 30 minutes until three members walked out.
Mary Alvarez left saying she shouldn't have to "listen to an atheist sit here and tell me what I should or should not believe in."
Tampa atheists were granted permission to speak during the invocation after scolding the council for praying to "invisible men in the sky."
Harvey doesn't believe in God so praying for civic wisdom for public servants, the whole idea behind any invocation, was impossible.
"All I was trying to get across was that if they're going to be guided by something let them be guided by things we know work... reason... logic, science," Harvey said.
Luis Lugo of the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life (search) said inviting an atheist to speak instead of pray seems foolish to the faithful.
"It doesn't make any sense to be praying in essence to ''whom it may concern.'"
Go to the video box above to watch a report by FOX News' Orlando Salinas.