“Paycheck Proselytizing” Protested in Ohio (May 1994)

On behalf of a Foundation member employed by the state of Ohio, the Freedom From Religion Foundation protested the distribution of a prayer proclamation by Ohio Gov. George V. Voinovich along with paychecks to state employees issued on April 29.

The flyer handed out with paychecks to at least several state departments, possibly involving tens of thousands of employees, not only contained the text of a prayer proclamation, but a directive to attend a prayer rally at the state capitol in Columbus on May 5.

“This flyer not only urged state employees to pray, but told them what to pray for!” noted the Foundation in a letter of objection to the governor which was released to the Columbus media.

The Foundation asked the governor to investigate who authorized the distribution of a prayer proclamation with state paychecks, “thereby singling out a religious message in a coercive manner.”

The Foundation had its own message for Gov. Voinovich, sending him a copy of the bumpersticker proclaiming, “Nothing Fails Like Prayer.” It called prayer “the ultimate meaningless political cop-out,” and reminded him that President Thomas Jefferson refused to ever issue proclamations of prayer or thanksgiving during his eight years in office.

“What Jefferson had no authority to do, you certainly should make no claims to!”

The prayer proclamation designated May 5 a “Day of Prayer” in Ohio, in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer set aside for the first Thursday of every May by Congress.

The proclamation said “it is fitting and proper to give thanks to the Lord by observing this day in Ohio when all may acknowledge our blessings and express gratitude for them,” urging citizens in Ohio “to observe this day in ways relevant to its importance and significance.”

The flyer handed out to state employees with paychecks urged them to attend a noon prayer rally sponsored by the Ohio National Day of Prayer Task Force, to “pray that God’s Mercy and Grace will encompass our state and nation. Pray that Almighty God will forgive us and heal our land.”

Article 1 of the Ohio Bill of Rights reads: “No person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or maintain any form of worship, against his consent; and no preference shall be given, by law, to any religious society; nor shall any interference with the rights of conscience be permitted.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation