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The group hosts dinners and seminars and does public service projects such as blood drives, school supply collection and litter cleanup.

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Dave Pfeifle, city attorney for Sioux Falls, said it didn't take a Supreme Court ruling for atheists to qualify for the Sioux Falls agenda. It's always been a possibility, and there's no way to know whether Novotny is first. The invocation is embedded in a city ordinance dating at least to the 1990s. There's no screening and therefore no exclusions.

"What you're seeing in Sioux Falls is what we're seeing in other parts of the country," said Patrick Elliott, staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis.

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In reality, though, the Supreme Court ruling was Novotny's ticket. She called the city clerk the day of the announcement and signed up to speak. cities to have atheists volunteer for invocations since the court decision.

a religion in violation of the First Amendment. The court's 5 4 ruling was a victory for defenders of public prayer. But in the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy said opportunities to lead invocations must extend to "a minister Adidas Duramo Slide

any religion," Estes said.

or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist."

"People just ask to get on the list," he said. "It's wide open. We never know the religion or the background in terms of any of the volunteers."

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Novotny, 33, is a psychology graduate of South Dakota State University who works for a nonprofit organization. She and her husband, Eric, live in Brookings. She enjoys Fleetwood Mac, car racing, Kurt Vonnegut's books and Adidas Eqt White Mountaineering painting abstracts with acrylics. She and her religious friends give each other space on matters of faith.

Novotny is president of the Siouxland Freethinkers. The court rejected a complaint that primarily Christian prayers before that board amounted to government establishing Human Race Nmd Collection

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"As far as I know, it's open to Harden 1 All Black

The Siouxland Freethinkers formed in 2011 to build a community for people with alternative viewpoints, Novotny said. Members include atheists, agnostics and humanists, and a Christian who considers himself a skeptic.

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The goal is "humans making the world better, not relying on a supreme power to do so," she said.

Novotny will call out a blessing as well. Her thoughts, however, will be in the form of a humanistic contemplation exhorting the council and mayor to work in their own power to address the issues of the day. She hadn't framed what she would say before an interview last week. But one word her comments will not include is God.

She does not think it odd that a resident of Brookings would be the one addressing the Sioux Falls council at what could be a milestone in the annals of council invocations. The Siouxland group covers a broad area but has a Sioux Falls base and meets once a month at the downtown public library.

"There might have been a guy named Jesus, though I don't think he died and came back to life," she said.

´╗┐Atheist takes turn giving council blessing

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"I could definitely be convinced of God if people presented enough evidence, something that could be documented," she said. But she considers the Bible narrative too much of a stretch.

It is ironic, though, that the opportunity comes by way of the Supreme Court, she said. She wanted the New York ruling to go against the town of Greece and end opening prayers at council meetings everywhere. That would have made her Carnegie Town Hall visit unnecessary. But as long as it didn't, she has an opportunity to open Tuesday night's meeting.

Tuesday at Carnegie Town Hall. Her two minute time slot, called the invocation on the meeting agenda, often is when a church pastor steps to the microphone and asks God to bless the meeting.

"The common denominator is they don't believe in God," she said.

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The foundation last year asked the Rapid City Council to abandon its practice of a prayer before meetings, which had been conducted by ministers since the 1950s. The council rejected that request, and the Supreme Court ruling bolstered the decision. Brad Estes, council vice president, said the mayor's office decides who gives the invocation.

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