Mayor walks out in protest at atheist’s ‘prayer,’ but not for the reason you might think

The mayor and several commissioners of a South Florida city walked out of a recent meeting as an atheist prepared to offer an invocation.

The City of Lake Worth begins city commissioner meetings with a prayer, open to all beliefs, or the lack thereof, and atheist Preston Smith was on hand to lead last week’s opening, WPTV reported. As he approached the podium, Mayor Pam Triolo and the three commissioners exited the room.

“Duly noted,” Smith said, as the four elected officials left.

But Triolo said she walked out because of an offensive tweet about rape that Smith allegedly posted on Twitter several months back, that also included an offensive interpretation of scripture, according to WPTV.

“I didn’t leave because Mr. Smith is an atheist, I left because of his alleged tweet.” Mayor Triolo said. “Free speech works both ways. You can say what you want and I can choose to leave.”

Triolo further explained her actions to the Sun Sentinel.

“We’re a diverse, tolerant city. We’ve had Wiccans, Quakers, Muslims and atheists deliver invocations,” she told the newspaper. “This had nothing to do with religion or anyone’s beliefs…I left because of vile, offensive comments about rape. I don’t find sexual assault funny or a joking matter in any way.”

The other three commissioners have not commented on the incident.

The Sun Sentinel reported that the alleged tweet commented on someone’s daughter, saying: “I’d hit that and make her my wifey.” The tweet pointed to a Bible verse — Deuteronomy 22:28-29 — that says if a man rapes a virgin, he must marry her.

As for Smith, he told WPTV that he believes he was discriminated against.

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Tom Tillison

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