The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pulling out the stops to educate the public about why a district court ruling in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Obama was right to declare the National Day of Prayer (Thursday, May 6) unconstitutional, including:
• The first-ever "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" anti-National Day of Prayer rally, which will be sponsored by FFRF in Madison, Wis., Thursday, May 6 from noon to 1 p.m. at the Wisconsin State Capitol, State Street entrance. (The event will take place at the same time as a National Day of Prayer (NDP) Christian prayer service at the opposite corner of the Capitol.)
Along with short speeches will be irreverent songs at the keyboard by Foundation Co-President Dan Barker, including "Nothing Fails Like Prayer" and "Battle of Church and State." Needless to say, there will be no moment of silence, but the group promises a tongue-in-cheek "moment of bedlam" instead — and lots of applause for Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling. Speakers will include FFRF co-presidents and staffers, Progressive editor Matt Rothschild, Prof. James Coors and others.
• A full-page ad in The New York Times appears Wednesday or Thursday affirming the judge's ruling and observing: "Congress and the President have no business telling Americans when or whether to pray." The ad features a portrait of John F. Kennedy and his quote: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute" and a depiction of Thomas Jefferson, with his advice: "Question with boldness even the existence of a God." (Famous letter to nephew Peter Carr, August 10, 1787).
More than 50 sponsors of the ad from around the country include freethinkers Ron Reagan, Ursula K. Le Guin, Donald C. Johanson (discoverer of "Lucy"), Daniel C. Dennett, Steven Pinker and New Yorkers such as The Nation's Katha Pollitt, distinguished cartoonist Edward Sorel, 95-year-old conductor David Randolph and Ernest Harburg of the Yip ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow") Harburg Foundation.
• A bus ad, "The United States is not founded on the Christian religion," will begin appearing on the exterior of buses in Madison, Wis., this week for a month. FFRF's secular "founding fathers" theme will include six interior bus signs featuring portraits and quotes with Thomas Paine ("My country is the world, and my religion is to do good"), James Madison ("Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together"), Art. VI, Sec. III of the U.S. Constitution ("No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States"), the full quote from the Treaty of Tripoli signed by Adams in 1897 ("The United States government is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion"), as well as the quotes by Thomas Jefferson and 20th century president John F. Kennedy.
"Ours was the first country to adopt a constitution separating government from religion. We want to remind Americans that our secular heritage has protected religious liberty for all Americans," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.
"We're looking forward to seeing those buses roll by the Capitol Square during our May 6 rally," said Barker.
Here's a sneak preview!
• Three prominent red-white-blue billboards saying "God & Government a Dangerous Mix: Keep State & Church Separate" were placed last week at the home turf of the National Day of Prayer Task Force — Colorado Springs, Colo.
• The Foundation wrote more than 1,000 mayors and all the governors letters last week requesting that they not sign proclamations declaring a National Day of Prayer and that they refrain from participating in NDP events in their official capacity.
• Over 6,000 people have signed FFRF's online petition opposing a National Day of Prayer.
The Foundation, a state/church separation watchdog and the largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics and skeptics) with 14,500 members nationwide, won the major court victory on April 15, when U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.
"In this instance," Crabb ruled, "the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience."
The federal law was passed at the behest of Rev. Billy Graham in 1952. It requires the president to proclaim a National Day of Prayer annually. The date was fixed by Congress in 1988 as the "first Thursday in May" at the request of Christian evangelical lobbying groups that went on to form the National Day of Prayer Task Force. The task force submits annual proclamations to the president, pressures all governors and many mayors to sign them and organizes 30,000 to 40,000 Christian events, often on government property, every year.
"Our goal is simple, straightforward and patriotic. It is to keep religion out of government, as the U.S. founders intended," said Gaylor. "There is nothing more intrusive or un-American than a public law that exhorts Americans to pray, to 'turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals,' much less that sets aside an entire day for prayer every year."