Quit promoting Christianity, FFRF tells Alabama Lt. Gov.

Stop exploiting the pandemic to promote Christianity, says the Freedom From Religion Foundation to the Alabama lieutenant governor.

On April 8, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth used his official social media accounts to “Ring for the Resurrection,” asking that all churches and citizens ring bells at noon on Easter Sunday, April 12, “to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion”:

Join me celebrating the hope, unity, and love shared among all Alabamians during this difficult time by ringing your church bell or a bell at your home this Easter Sunday at noon. We CAN stand together in unity — even as we’re staying apart. Matthew 28:6 proclaims the hope that lives with the resurrection of Christ — “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.” Share this post to help us get the word out!

This message includes the official seal of the office of the lieutenant governor of Alabama. Many other government officials throughout the state, including Gov. Kay Ivey and dozens of legislators, have shared Ainsworth’s message.

It is particularly dismaying to see Ainsworth’s promotion of religion in his official capacity come under the guise of the pandemic, FFRF says. His call to “Ring for the Resurrection” claims “that the simple act of ringing a bell can allow us to remain physically distant while being united in spirit.” And his official call to “Ring for the Resurrection” also talks about “the miracle of Easter. While Gov. Ivey’s stay-at-home order, the public’s health and safety, and simple common sense prevent Christians from gathering in large groups even on the holiest of days, all of us can join together in spirit as we ring a bell to recognize that Christ has risen.”

In fact nothing is more divisive than religion, FFRF points out.

“You represent all constituents, including atheists, agnostics, and those who subscribe to minority religions, not just church-going Christians who believe in ‘miracles’ and that ‘Christ has risen,’” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Ainsworth. “Urging churches and citizens to ring bells to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ promotes Christianity, sending an official message of endorsement of religion over nonreligion and Christianity over all other faiths.’”

When a lieutenant governor or other government official associates his office with an exclusively religious, Christian message, the person violates the First Amendment, FFRF emphasizes. As the Supreme Court has stated, “The government may acknowledge Christmas as a cultural phenomenon, but under the First Amendment it may not observe it as a Christian holy day by suggesting people praise God for the birth of Jesus.” The same holds true for celebrating Easter.

Ainsworth’s “Ring for the Resurrection” campaign in fact violates not only the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, but also its Free Exercise Clause, since he’s misusing his governmental authority to tell churches what to do.

In conclusion, FFRF asks Ainsworth to remain cognizant that he has taken an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution — an entirely godless and secular document — and is charged with great responsibility over citizens, including those who may not share his religious viewpoints. Leaving religion as a private matter for private citizens is the wisest public policy.

“The lieutenant governor is behaving as though he lives in a Christian theocracy, instead of a secular republic,” Gaylor adds. “Ainsworth is tone deaf when it comes to the importance of upholding separation between state and church.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s purposes, with 31,000 members nationwide (including in Alabama), are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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.

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