Action Alert

Protest Pennsylvania House fasting and prayer resolutions!

Below is a copy of a letter from FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor submitted to Pennsylvania newspapers as an opinion piece objecting to HR 17 and HR 51, which designate April 30, 2013 as “National Fast Day” and May 2 as the “National Day of Prayer.”

Please take a moment to phone and/or email Pennsylvania House Speaker Samuel Smith (717-787-3845) and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (717-787-3566) as well as Pennsylvania representatives. Let them know that it is inappropriate and exclusionary for the government to designate days of prayer and fasting. If you are a Pennsylvania resident please directly contact your representative and identify yourself as a state citizen. Click here to find your representative.

Thank you for your help!

 

Pennsylvania Representatives Violate Citizen Rights With Religious Endorsements

Representatives in the Pennsylvania General Assembly have continually abused the authority of their elected office to endorse religion and call upon Pennsylvania citizens to venerate and show obeisance to their preferred religious practices. This intrusion into the private religious beliefs or non-religious views of citizens must end.

Most recently, the House passed resolutions declaring “National Fast Day” for April 30, and a “National Day of Prayer” for May 2, creating two government–sanctioned “holy days” within the same week. The National Day of Prayer resolution even passed unanimously. Such legislative interference in the rights of conscience of citizens is officious, inappropriate and strikes at the heart of individual freedom.

State Rep. Rick Saccone sponsored the National Fast Day resolution, which calls for all “to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness,” quoting a proclamation by Abraham Lincoln from 1863. It’s shameful that members of the House, by a 160-35 vote, have used a Civil War proclamation as a pretext for endorsing religion today. The resolution sponsors quote it because it aligns with their Christian religious beliefs. Yet, Pennsylvania was founded by state/church separation advocate William Penn and is home to citizens of many religions and no religion, including nearly 20% of whom identify as nonreligious.

Saccone and supporters of government—created religious holidays display no regard for the Constitution and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The government has no business telling citizens whether or not to engage in religious practices. President Thomas Jefferson rejected such proclamations, advising:

Fasting and prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the constitution has deposited it … [E]very one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the U.S. and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents. (Letter to Rev. Samuel Miller 1808).

What Jefferson could not do as President, certainly representatives of the General Assembly may not do.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation brought suit last year over the House’s offensively proclaimed “Year of the Bible.” That resolution was also sponsored by Saccone. Although U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, he took the House to task. Conner noted that that the proclamation was at worst “premeditated pandering designed to provide a reelection sound bite.” Connor wrote, “But regardless of the motivation … its express language is proselytizing and exclusionary. The court is compelled to shine a clear, bright light on this resolution because it pushes the Establishment Clause envelope behind the safety glass of legislative immunity.” He said his strong disapproval “is directed to the blatant use of legislative resources in contravention of the spirit – if not the letter – of the Establishment Clause.”

Over the last year, the House has declared days of prayer, a day of fasting, a “Prayer Month” (last October) and a “Year of the Bible.” Enough already. Our message to state representatives is to stop abusing their public office to create religious holidays. It’s time they get off their knees and get to work!

Very truly,

Annie Laurie Gaylor
FFRF Co-President

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