Last year, Mayor Joanne Twomey proclaimed May 6, 2010, as a “Day of Prayer” throughout Biddeford, Maine, an action that drew an FFRF letter of complaint on behalf of a local resident and the threat of a lawsuit.
This year, remembering that, Twomey refused to issue a prayer proclamation. “She learned from last year’s controversy that it is not the place of a government official to endorse such an overtly religious event,” noted the Biddeford Journal Tribune in a May 6 editorial.
The newspaper said Twomey made the right decision. “To do otherwise would result in an offense to all of those who do not share the beliefs of the evangelical Christians who organize the National Day of Prayer. The city government must represent and work for all of its citizens, from atheists to Jews, Muslims to Christians, Buddhists to Hindus. It is indeed a dangerous move when the government endorses the faith of the majority and thereby makes those with other beliefs feel like second-class citizens. This year, Biddeford has sent the message that this city does not hold one group of citizens higher than the other.”
Regrettably, elected officials around the country didn’t follow Twomey’s lead. This year, FFRF sent letters of complaint to state and local governments to oppose their illegal participation in sectarian National Day of Prayer events. Included were Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn; Utah Gov. Gary Herbert; Mayor Duke Bennett, Terre Haute, Ind.; County Manager David Hankerson, Cobb County, Ga.; Mayor John Fouts, Warren, Mich.; and Mayor Glen Stewart, Ashland, Ohio.
Other letters went to various officials in Calvert City, Ky.; Mayfield, Ky.; Hernando County, Fla.; Redlands, Calif; Paducah, Ky.; and the federal Bureau of Reclamation in Denver.