(Madison, Wis.) The national Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation's largest freethought (atheist/agnostic) membership group, which works to keep church and state separation, has called on the nation's governors to issue proclamations to balance the National Day of Prayer.
Pointing out "there have been many holidays for saints and superstition, but never one commemorating reason, freethought and state/church separation," the Foundation proposes that governors proclaim a "Day of Reason," a "Freethought Week" or a "Give Thanks for State/Church Separation."
Governors and local officials are annually targeted by rightwing groups, such as Focus on the Family, to issue annual proclamations calling on constituents to pray. Under Reagan, legislation was passed designating the first Thursday of every May as "National Day of Prayer," but governors are not obliged to "observe" it.
"The public observance of a day of prayer is most distressing in a country founded on the principle of freedom of conscience," noted Foundation co-president Dan Barker. "While reason tells us nothing fails like prayer, a church-sponsored day of prayer would not be a problem," unlike government prayer.
Fourteen percent of the U.S. adult population is not religious, the Foundation reminded governors in individual letters sent in mid-April requesting secular proclamations. According to the definitive American Religious Identification Survey, that is 30 million U.S. adults.
"Prayer proclamations by public officials convey to nonreligious Americans that we are expected to believe in a god, and in the suspension of the natural laws of the universe through wishful thinking," added Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor.
"The hands that help are better far than lips that pray," according to noted 19th century freethinker/attorney Robert Green Ingersoll. Freethinkers believe in deeds, not creeds. As Mark Twain pointed out, "It is better to read the weather forecast before we pray for rain." Governors who have responded to date to the request typically have noted they issue proclamations on behalf of state citizens. So the Foundation urges its membership to take up the challenge by contacting governors or other local officials sponsoring a "Day of Prayer" and requesting secular balance.