Will An Atheist Be Permitted To Give Senate Invocation? (May 1994)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wisconsin, has renewed its request that U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (502 Hart Bldg, Washington DC 20510-4904) permit Foundation staff member Dan Barker, who holds a ministerial ordination, to give a freethought opening invocation on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Feingold’s office did not respond to a similar request a year ago. The request was renewed when it was announced that Feingold’s sister, Rabbi Dena Feingold, would give an April invocation at his request, even though she publicly stated her disapproval of government prayers.

“Congress has been opening for more than 200 years without ever once inviting or permitting a freethinker to speak at the opening,” noted the Foundation in a letter to the senator. “It is time to balance more than 200 years of religious proselytization by permitting a freethinker to speak.”

When the Foundation asked Senate Chaplain Richard C. Halverson to let Barker deliver the invocation, Halverson said the rules require that the speaker be ordained, and be sponsored by a U.S. Senator from his or her state. Barker, although now an atheist, was ordained through the Christian Church.

Wisconsin’s other senator, Herb Kohl, turned down the Foundation’s request to give some “equal time” for freethought two years ago.

To Be Continued.

Freedom From Religion Foundation