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Freethought Today · Vol. 24 No. 9 November 2007

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Secularists Chide Gov. Perdue for His Prayer Service to Pray for Rain

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An unidentified member (at left) of the Freedom From Religion Foundation carrying a sign at the rally. Ed Buckner, FFRF Life Member and activist with the Atlanta Freethought Society (at right), attracted national and international media attention by announcing a picket of Gov. Perdue's prayer service for rain at the Georgia State Capitol. Buckner noted: "This is embarrassingly foolish, a great mistake, a waste of taxpayer money, and unconstitutional on its face. This protest will be directed at the Governor's actions on the basis both of violations of religious liberty and on the basis of absurd religious ideas." He called it "a scam" to schedule a prayer service for the day before rain was forecast. "If prayers worked it would have already rained."

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Freedom From Religion Foundation member Ashleigh Rentz, with one of the two signs she created to protest Georgia's pray-for-rain religious service at the State Capitol on Nov. 13. Her second sign, "Pray on the church steps, not on the Capitol steps," was quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution coverage of the prayer service and counter-protest.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation's largest association of atheists and agnostics, endorsed and publicized the Atlanta Freethought Society's protest of Gov. Sonny Perdue's religious service to pray for rain, which took place on Tues., Nov. 13, at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.

Heeding Mark Twain's advice that "it is best to check the weather forecast before praying for rain," the governor scheduled the prayer service for the day before the weather forecast predicted rain. An insignificant amount fell in the area on Nov. 14.

In a letter to Gov. Perdue, Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor noted that "Our hearts go out to everyone affected" by the crisis drought. Yet the situation "does not excuse the use of a government office to sponsor a prayer service."

The Atlanta Freethought Society, along with the Council for Secular Humanism and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, engaged in a polite and peaceful protest. About 22 secularists picketed as the governor and ministers inveighed a supernatural authority to send rain.

Gaylor noted the illogic of appealing to a "higher power" for rain, since an omnipotent, omniscient (and sadistic) deity would be well-aware of the effect of the drought, since he by definition caused it!

"You have a history of making prayer proclamations," she added. "It is time to quit confusing the office of governor with that of 'state preacher.' "

"The problem is not that they are praying for rain, it's they are doing it in our name," said Ed Buckner, a spokesperson with the Atlanta Freethought Society and FFRF Life Member. Buckner initiated the prayer protest, and was featured on national and international news, including CBS Evening News, CNN, MSNBC, and national wire stories. Among the picket signs Buckner suggested: "Sonny--Pray on your own time and on your own dime!"

The Foundation has made an open records request to the governor's office seeking details on how much tax money and staff time was spent organizing the religious worship.

You can still contact Gov. Perdue's office to protest this misuse of public office to organize, plan and pay for a prayer service:

The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Office of the Governor
Georgia State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office Phone: 404-656-1776
Fax: 404-657-7332

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