The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking the Alabama governor to quit preaching on the state's official social media accounts.
Concerned citizens contacted FFRF to report that on Dec. 25, the official Alabama governor's Facebook page posted a religious message and Gov. Kay Ivey's 2017 Christmas message video.
The post read, "My fellow Alabamians, today, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that each of us share His light and love with one another. As we're upon the Christmas season, reflecting on the past year, let us be filled with hope and joy as we look toward the opportunities that lie before us. May your days ahead be filled with the light of God and His abundant grace."
As a government entity, the office of the governor cannot endorse religious messages. These religious messages violate the Establishment Clause by communicating that the department and the state of Alabama prefer religion, specifically Christianity, over nonreligion and all minority faiths.
"The Supreme Court has long recognized that the First Amendment 'mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,'" FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel writes to Ivey. "When you use your office to promote exclusively religious messages, you have violated this neutrality."
FFRF asserts that the Facebook post conveys a message to non-Christians that they are not "favored members of the political community," to quote a landmark Supreme Court decision. These citizens should not be made to feel like outsiders in their own state because the government they support with their taxes prominently places religious endorsements on its social media page. While many Alabamians may support these religious sentiments, a significant proportion are excluded. Overall, 24 percent of Americans identify as religiously unaffiliated and nearly 30 percent are non-Christians, either practicing a minority religion or no religion at all.
Of course, the law does not prevent a governor from recognizing Christmas, FFRF points out. However, the Supreme Court has said that the "government may celebrate Christmas in some manner and form, but not in a way that endorses Christian doctrine."
"Wishing people good will and good cheer is all fine on Christmas, but not this overtly religious homily that the governor felt fit to send forth," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "She's insulting residents of the state who aren't Christian by such sectarian preachiness."
FFRF asks that the religious post be removed from the governor's official Facebook page.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization whose purposes are to protect the separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters related to nontheism. It has 30,000 members throughout the country, including in Alabama.