Mayors Asked For Secular Proclamations (September 1995)

All one thousand and fifty U.S. mayors presiding over cities with populations of 30,000 or more, are being asked by the Freedom From Religion Foundation to issue two secular proclamations celebrating state/church separation.

In letters being mailed to each of the mayors, Foundation president Anne Gaylor noted that officials hear mostly from the religious right:

“Never before have public officials been under so much pressure to misuse their secular positions to promote religion. You receive requests to proclaim ‘bible weeks’ and ‘days of prayer,’ to inappropriately participate in your official capacity in ‘prayer breakfasts,’ even to falsely declare this a ‘Christian Nation,’ as if Jews, Atheists and other nonChristians are not bonafide citizens.”

Pointing out that “Nothing is more divisive than religion in government,” the Foundation is submitting two proposed proclamations which “celebrate America’s unifying secularheritage.”

Mayors are being asked to proclaim November 19-26, 1995 as “Give Thanks For State/Church Separation” Week.

“Instead of issuing the usual religious homilies during Thanksgiving, public officials will have the opportunity to use their secular offices to educate about the importance of a constitutional principle,” observed Gaylor.

The proclamation borrows the traditional form of Thanksgiving proclamations–with some interesting twists, thanking not a deity but our nation’s founders for the wisdom of establishing a secular Constitution and nation.

Mayors are hounded annually by the National Laymen’s Bible Association to issue “Bible Week” to coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday. Others routinely issue their own religiously-based proclamations.

“It is improper, indeed illegal, for an elected official to use his or her public office to promote religion, to observe a religious week, to urge the public to worship, pray or devotionally read a particular religion’s sacred book,” said Gaylor.

“But what could be more appropriate for an elected official, who takes an oath to uphold the Constitution, than to issue proclamations honoring and observing a constitutional principle?”

The Foundation also proposes a New Year’s proclamation to “Celebrate State/Church Separation Month,” in honor of the phrase coined by Thomas Jefferson on January 1, 1802, explaining that the Establishment Clause builds “a wall of separation between Church and State.”

“The Jeffersonian ‘wall of separation between Church and State’ has served for nearly two centuries as a touchstone in courts of law, protecting personal liberties and preserving freedom of conscience in our republic,” reads the proclamation.

These proclamations join an earlier Foundation proposal for an annual “Freethought Week” to coincide with the anniversary of October 12, 1692, commemorating the termination of the infamous Salem Witch Trials, when “spectral evidence” was finally banned from trials. The proclamation commemorates human enlightenment, the scientific method, reason, freethought and state/church separation. (Full wording can be found in the March 1995 Freethought Today.)

“Proclamations devoted exclusively to state/church separation may be easier to promote,” said Gaylor. “We hope these will discourage officials from issuing religious proclamations, and will educate about the need to keep religion out of government.”

Governors will also receive the suggested wording for secular proclamations.

Members may wish to promote the proclamations locally or use them as the basis of timely, educational letters to the editor particularly if your officials have a history of making religious proclamations.

Keep Freethought Today informed of your progress!

Foundation members may request a copy of each of the proclamations by sending a self-addressed, stamped, business-sized envelope to FFRF, Attn: Proclamations, PO Box 750, Madison WI 53701. The full text of the Jefferson proclamation will appear in the October issue.

Freedom From Religion Foundation