Kentucky governor must cancel prayer breakfast

Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging Kentucky Gov. Matthew Bevin to cancel a Governor's Prayer Breakfast scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16.

The event is problematic in many ways.

The First Amendment prohibits government sponsorship of religious occasions. Yet, the breakfast and a link to sign up appear on the governor's webpage, and the state seal is seen on the invitation. Moreover, Bevin sent out an official email on Jan. 29 inviting all state employees for the gathering.

"By sponsoring a Prayer Breakfast, which calls Kentucky citizens to prayer, you abrogate your duty to remain neutral," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor in a Feb. 5 letter to the governor. "This event sends a message that the governor of Kentucky prefers and endorses religion over nonreligion and more specifically the Christian faith." 

Gaylor points out that this alienates a significant portion of Kentuckians who are nonreligious (400,000, according to a 2008 survey) and non-Christian.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution didn't pray during the four-month constitutional convention that adopted the godless and entirely secular document whose only references to religion are exclusionary. FFRF calls religion divisive, especially when mixed with government. As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, "A zeal for different opinions concerning religion ... have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good."

The Kentucky governor is also misappropriating his power, FFRF avers. Alexander Hamilton wrote that the Constitution gives the executive "no particle of spiritual jurisdiction." Yet, Bevin is utilizing executive authority to organize a religious assembly. His deployment of official email for a prayer violates the state's own guidelines, which prohibit emails "advocating religious or political opinions."

"It is unconstitutional to use government resources, such as the Kentucky.gov website, official state email, and the state seal, to endorse religious rituals and solicit attendance by state employees," says Gaylor. "This not only lends the imprimatur of the governor's office to prayer and a Christian event, but it also abuses your civil and administrative authority. State employees will feel they must support a religious event, regardless of their personal thoughts or reservations, to get ahead or stay on the good side of their boss."

FFRF is urging the Kentucky governor to immediately cancel the gathering. The organization is calling on Bevin to remove the breakfast from the governor's website, and to delete any official mention in the event's promotion. It is also asking for an apology to go out to all state employees.

FFRF has a national enrollment of 23,000 nonreligious members, including in Kentucky.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement