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Planed Invocation to Maine Senate

Planed Invocation to Maine Senate

Tom Waddell, Secular Invocation, Maine Senate, May 30, 2017

Good morning. I am Tom Waddell, President of the Maine Chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Thank you all for the personal sacrifices each of you have made to be a member of the Maine Senate. Your personal commitment to Maine’s future is much appreciated. And thank you for the opportunity to give the first of many inspiring secular invocations to the Maine Senate.

Traditionally, invocations have served to encourage lawmakers to put aside political differences and, under the guidance of a “higher power,” work together for the common goal of making Maine a better place for all of its citizens. This secular invocation will be no different, but I will not ask you to bow your heads to a “higher power.” Instead, I ask you to look around at the learned men and women assembled here today, and rely on your collective character, honesty and integrity for guidance in making decisions that fulfill the intent of the Maine Constitution, specifically “to promote our common welfare.”

In the words of a Buddhist homily; “May (you) become at all times, both now and forever; A protector for those without protection; A guide for those who have lost their way; A ship for those with oceans to cross; A bridge for those with rivers to cross; A sanctuary for those in danger; A lamp for those without light; A place of refuge for those who lack shelter; And a servant to all those in need.”

Thank you.


How To Support Separation of Church And State In Maine

Several people wanted to know how to support the separation of church and state in Maine. One of the key ways to help FFRF Maine’s online sites reach likeminded people is to post content every day. Search engines list online sites that post new content on a daily basis at the top of search results. The more daily content we have the higher we will appear on search results when someone is looking for groups like ours.

Here is a list of our online presence, the monthly column I write, and how you can help the chapter.

Website – – Follow us and post interesting content you find online. To follow the chapter, enter your email in the space provided on the left and click on “Follow FFRF Maine” just below. To post content, email me at I can list you as a contributor so you can post to the website.

You Tube – – Subscribe. It takes 100 subscribers to change our You Tube channel name to something like You Tube FFRF Maine. This will make it much easier for likeminded people to find us on You Tube.

Facebook – – Read and post comments. As with any Facebook page, interesting daily content encourages people to come back to see what else they might enjoy reading. If you have a Facebook page and find something the non-believer community would be interested in, I encourage you to “Share” that content on the chapters Facebook page.

Kennebec Journal – I write a monthly column, “In Reason We Trust”, for the Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel. If you read and like the column, post a comment online. This can be done anonymously through a Disqus account if you are more comfortable with that. Adding to the positive comments, and counteracting the negative ones, will help likeminded people find their voice as well. This may result in more people becoming chapter members or supporters. The Portland Press Herald, a sister paper to the Kennebec Journal, does not carry the monthly column. If you think the PPH readers would also enjoy reading the column, send an email to the editorial page editor Greg Kesich at

All “In Reason We Trust” column articles are posted at –

Litchfield man cries foul over cancellation of ‘secular’ invocation for Maine Senate

This is the link to the article. The single most important thing you can do right now to support of the separation of church and state is to post a positive comment to the article. This can be done anonymously if you are more comfortable with that through using Disqus. Setting up an anonymous Disqus account is on the comment page to the article.

Litchfield man cries foul over cancellation of ‘secular’ invocation for Maine Senate

Thomas Waddell says the move raises questions about the separation of church and state, while Senate President Michael Thibodeau says he’s concerned about how Waddell treated the Senate secretary. BY STAFF WRITER

AUGUSTA — Just about every session of the Maine Legislature begins with a prayer to a higher power.

In many cases, that higher power is God or Jesus. But this week, Thomas Waddell of Litchfield was hoping to deliver a different kind of message before the Maine Senate. Rather than invoke a spiritual deity, Waddell was going to ask the senators to look to each other for the strength to fulfill their shared, constitutional duties.

But last week, Waddell says, he was informed that his May 30 reading had been canceled and that Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, would be reviewing its contents when the 128th Legislature ends.

Now, Waddell is questioning just how separated the church and state Legislature are in Maine. Based on what a Senate administrator told him, he thinks some lawmakers objected to his invocation in February and advised Thibodeau to reconsider the invitation.

“My take is, Senate President Mike Thibodeau is doing this just as a stalling tactic,” Waddell said. “He personally is not comfortable with having someone who is not clergy get up there in front of the Senate and not reference God or Jesus in their invocation, and that’s the bottom line.”

Waddell, who is president of the Maine chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, also called Thibodeau’s decision to “censor my words … fully and totally illegal.”

But the Senate President has a different take.

According to a letter Thibodeau sent to Waddell on Friday afternoon, Thibodeau has concerns about Waddell’s conduct toward Senate Secretary Heather Priest in a conversation he had with her.

Thibodeau said Priest indicated Waddell’s version of events “does not fully and fairly reflect your conversation with her. She has also advised me that you were confrontational with her and that you (were) verbally aggressive, demanding that she comply with your instructions, and concede to your account of the conversation you had with her.”

Thibodeau said he will ask Priest to provide a written account of the encounter with Waddell by June 9 and tells Waddell “if you would like to submit a written account of your own, please submit it by the same deadline.”

Thibodeau said he would reserve judgment about whether Waddell could give the invocation at a later date.

Another letter emailed Friday from Rebecca S. Merkert, attorney for the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, to Thibodeau says the organization sees this as “a serious constitutional violation.”

Merkert maintains, “Mr. Waddell is being forced to meet requirements that others are not. Requiring him to submit his remarks for review and approval is a constitutional violation. First, disparate application of rules based on your perception of Mr. Waddell’s religion is illegal. Second, when the government allows invocation speakers to deliver remarks, the government cannot censor or approve invocations based on their viewpoint.”

Merkert asked that Waddell “be invited back to give his remarks on Tuesday.”

Prayers have been read during federal and state legislative sessions ever since the U.S. Congress was formed in 1789, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Even though the practice would seem to violate the U.S. Constitution’s separation of church and government, it was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983, in the case Marsh v. Chambers, and 30 years later in the case Town of Greece v. Galloway, said Zach Heiden, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

Following the second case, Heiden said, the court “essentially expanded the ability of legislative bodies to engage in legislative prayer.”

But the court also indicated several ways that prayer could violate Establishment Clause, including a pattern of denigration of other faith systems, whether in the prayers themselves or in the decisions of legislative officers about which prayers to allow, Heiden said.

Heiden declined to comment on the merits of Waddell’s complaint, but said he doesn’t think a secular invocation is any different from a religious prayer, legally speaking.

Priest did not return a call seeking comment last week. But in her initial invitation to Waddell to deliver the invocation, she seemed receptive to the idea.

“On behalf of Senate President Michael Thibodeau, I want to thank you for your willingness to deliver the opening prayer in the Senate,” she wrote in May 10 letter. “Out of respect for the diversity of the religious beliefs of the Senators, a brief prayer that is non-sectarian and non-political would be appreciated.”

But according to Waddell, Priest called him last week to inform him the reading was canceled and, because of the length and content of his February reading, that Thibodeau would need to review its contents.

In that February invocation, Waddell told House members that each “was elected to represent the interests of a diverse community in terms of age, socioeconomic status, race, sexual orientation, gender identity and religious beliefs or secular principles. Representing diverse constituents requires one to be truly inclusive and tolerant.”

To help Mainers find “economic opportunity, decent housing, good schools and a health care system that meets the needs of all people,” he asked the lawmakers “to put aside any personal and political differences in these divisive times and to work together for the benefit of Maine as a whole. I ask you to use facts, reason and logic, tempered with compassion and empathy, in making your decisions, today and every day. I ask you to discard partisan dogma and to weigh, without bias, the merits of the various proposals being made, and to refrain from denigrating persons with whom you may disagree.”

He closed by reading a Buddhist homily.

Waddell was invited to read his invocation in the Senate after making a request to Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, former executive director of the ACLU of Maine, who passed it along to Priest.

Now, he’s hoping that Thibodeau will reconsider his decision to cancel the May 30 reading. He also said he’s hoping to get a better explanation of the reasons it was canceled.

He doesn’t think any part of it falls astray of the Constitution, and he pointed to the decision in Greece v. Galloway to explain why he thinks Thibodeau’s decision might constitute censorship. He also questioned whether Thibodeau or other lawmakers were resistant to allowing a message that wasn’t Judeo-Christian to be read in the State House.

In a written statement, Bellows said she has not been involved in the conversations with Priest and Thibodeau, but expressed hope they could reach a civil resolution that would allow Waddell to go forward with his invocation.

“Delivering the invocation before the Senate is an honor that should be bestowed upon Mainers of all faiths, or those of no faith at all, without discrimination,” Bellows said.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

Twitter: @ceichacker

FFRF denounces Maine Senate censorship


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is denouncing the Maine Senate’s censorship of a humanist invocation.

Thomas Waddell, head of FFRF Maine, worked with state Sen. Shenna Bellows to deliver the opening invocation before the Maine State Senate. This request was initially approved by the secretary of the Senate, with Waddell scheduled to give an invocation before the Senate on May 30. Waddell delivered a humanist invocation before the Maine House earlier this year. Waddell’s scheduled Senate invocation was suddenly cancelled, supposedly because of its content and length. (The remarks can be viewed in the attached PDF.)

Waddell is being forced to meet requirements that others are not. Waddell reports that no other person selected to give the opening invocation must adhere to these unwritten requirements. The Maine Senate’s requirement that Waddell submit his remarks for review and approval violates the U.S. Constitution on a number of counts. First, disparate application of rules based on perception of Waddell’s views on religion is illegal. Second, when the government allows invocation speakers to deliver remarks, it cannot censor or approve invocations based on their viewpoint.

“Government officials cannot ‘act as supervisors and censors of religious speech’ because doing so ‘would involve government in religious matters to a far greater degree than … [either] editing or approving prayers in advance [or] criticizing their content after the fact,'” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court, FFRF Managing Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert writes to Maine Senate President Michael Thibodeau. “As a government official, you cannot dictate what is said or not said by prayer givers.”

If the Senate insists on continuing to host prayers at public meetings, it must not discriminate against any person wishing to give an invocation, FFRF asserts. The nonreligious and members of minority religions should be permitted to deliver invocations, as well.

Under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, it is discriminatory to handle similarly situated persons differently. Treating an atheist or nonbeliever who wishes to give an invocation differently from a religious citizen constitutes discrimination.

FFRF reminds the Maine State Senate that the state/church watchdog group is committed to ensuring that nonbelievers are able to deliver secular invocations before legislative bodies. In May 2016, FFRF sued the congressional House Chaplain for refusing to allow its Co-President Dan Barker to deliver the invocation before the House of Representatives as a guest chaplain. FFRF, with the ACLU and Americans United, is also suing a Florida county over persistent rejection, in violation of the U.S. and Florida Constitutions, of atheists, humanists and other nontheists who want to deliver solemnizing messages to start meetings.

FFRF insists that the Maine Senate immediately approve Waddell’s request and that he be invited back to give his remarks without delay.

“The Maine Senate is supposed to represent all citizens of the state,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It cannot act in an exclusionary manner toward a certain group of Mainers.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization representing more than 29,000 nonreligious members and chapters across the country, including many members and a chapter in Maine.

– See more at:


Sweden did the opposite of everything Trump proposes — now they’re in an economic boom!

Magdalena Andersson

High taxes, strong unions and an equal distribution of wealth.

That’s the recipe for success in a globalized world, according to Magdalena Andersson, the Social Democratic economist who’s also Sweden’s finance minister.

The 50-year-old has been raising taxes and spending more on welfare since winning power in 2014. She’s also overseen an economic boom, with Swedish growth rates topping 4 percent early last year, that has turned budget deficits into surpluses.

❝ In a world still flinching from the financial crisis that hit a decade ago and the populist wave that followed, Sweden’s economic stewardship holds lessons that challenge the conventional wisdom in the U.S. on how taxes work, according to the Harvard-educated minister. Speaking in an interview in Stockholm, Andersson says success comes down to “three things: It’s the jobs, it’s our welfare and it’s our redistribution.”

❝ It’s the polar opposite of the policy being developed across the Atlantic, where U.S. President Donald Trump is hoping tax cuts, less regulation and new trade deals will produce 3 percent growth within two years. Meanwhile, in Europe, the Nordic model is attracting attention. Emmanuel Macron, who on Sunday defeated Front National’s Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election, has urged his country to look north for ideas on how to organize a society.

❝ Andersson, who lists health care and education, “regardless of how much you earn,” as key to running a successful economy, points to income redistribution as the shield that can keep populist shocks at bay…

The numbers are compelling. Sweden has one of the world’s highest tax burdens, with tax revenue about 43 percent of GDP, according to OECD data. The equivalent figure for the U.S. is about 26 percent. Sweden’s economy has grown almost twice as fast as America’s, expanding 3.1 percent last year, compared with 1.6 percent in the U.S….

Sweden has the highest labor force participation in the European Union. Andersson attributes this to tax-funded parental leave and affordable daycare, which make it easier for both parents to work.

In contrast to most of its European peers, Sweden has budget surpluses. The EU average will be a shortfall of 1.6 percent in 2018, while the estimated deficit in the U.S. of 5.7 percent of GDP…

Taxes are always negative for the folks required to pay the most taxes. Especially if you aren’t allowed loopholes by bought-and-paid-for politicians. Running a nation’s economy to benefit the whole population is nothing that would ever occur to most American politicians – regardless of how often they lie and say that’s exactly what they’re doing. Perish the fact that so-called trickle-down economics have never produced anything other than more wealth for fewer people. And screwed the rest of us.


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