Statement by Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Reiigion Foundation
Florida Gov. Rick Scott apparently looks on public piety as the perfect "out" in response to the outcry over the not guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. After avoiding a sit-in of peaceful African-American youths, then brushing them off with a short meeting, Scott called for a "day of prayer" on Sunday:
"Tonight, the protesters again asked that I call a special session of the Legislature to repeal Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. I told them that I agree with the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, which concurred with the law. I also reminded them of their right to share their views with their state legislators and let them know their opinions on the law."
Scott added, “I also told them that I plan to call for a Statewide Day of Prayer for Unity in Florida this Sunday, July 21. We have a great state with wonderful, resilient people that rise to meet any challenge. While emotions run high during this time of grieving, it is even more important that we join together to strengthen and support one another.”
To see how hollow it is to invoke a deity as some sort of response to this situation, consider that George Zimmerman told Sean Hannity of Fox News last summer that his killing of Trayvon Martin was part of "God's plan."
The motto here at the office of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, coined by principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor, is "Nothing fails like prayer." It's even on one of FFRF's popular bumper stickers. Prayer is the ultimate political cop-out. In this instance, it's merely a calculated nonresponse. Scott hopes to get African-Americans, traditionally considered highly religious, off his back. He thinks it will appease them and all of us who are disgusted by the idea of an armed vigilante chasing down and shooting a 16-year-old packing only Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea. By calling for a "day of prayer," Scott also apparently hopes to give the impression that this subject is out of his hands, beyond his control.
Although FFRF members hold a variety of views on gun safety, many Americans, religious or irreligious, are appalled at our nation's firearms free-for-all and the rising number of shootings. African-American citizens are still waiting, and waiting, for that overdue discussion on race relations, and what it means to live in a nation where if you're a parent you're afraid to let your child out the door if they're wearing hoodies, or might end up "in the wrong place at the wrong time" and be perceived as a threat by some paranoid, armed stranger.
Scott should realize many African-Americans will not be impressed with this red herring day of prayer. University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler recently wrote: "As a historian of American and African-American religion, I know that the Trayvon Martin moment is just one moment in a history of racism in America that, in large part, has its underpinnings in Christianity and its history. Those of us who teach American religion have a responsibility to tell all of the story, not just the nice touchy-feely parts. When the good Christians of America are some of its biggest racists, one has to consider our moral responsibility to call out those who clearly are not for human flourishing, no matter what ethnicity a person is."
Evidence of the growing numbers of African-Americans making known their dissent from religion is shown by the Blackout Rally on Saturday, July 27, thought to be the largest rally of secular people of color in U.S. history, taking place in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, New York. FFRF Co-President Dan Barker and I are interviewing Manisha Thomas, president of Black Nonbelievers, one of the rally's co-sponsors, on Freethought Radio tomorrow (listen here). Learn more about his historic rally.
Governor Scott — your day of prayer is nothing but a pitiful attempt to sidestep an important issue.
Contact Scott to let him know why you object to public officials calling for "days of prayer."
Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001