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FFRF commends Rep. Pocan’s nomination of Co-President Dan Barker as Guest Chaplain

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a leading advocate for the separation of church and state, commends U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan for his historic nomination of its Co-President Dan Barker as a Guest Chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

This nomination, made in a letter to Rev. Margaret Grun Kibben, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, represents a significant step forward in promoting religious diversity and highlights the importance of the inclusion of nonreligious Americans in government proceedings. FFRF also thanks Reps. Jared Huffman, Jamie Raskin, Hank Johnson, Julia Brownley and Jan Schakowsky for signing onto the letter.

In the letter addressed to Kibben, Pocan, a dedicated supporter of secular government and a fellow nonreligious American, recommends Barker for the prestigious role of Guest Chaplain. Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is widely recognized for his tireless efforts to defend constitutional rights, his advocacy for church-state separation and his support of ordained clergy seeking secular employment through the Clergy Project.

In the letter, Pocan and the Congressional Freethought Caucus extend an invitation to Kibben to make Barker the first-ever openly atheistic Guest Chaplain. This historic milestone would further emphasize the values of religious accommodation and the free expression of religion, as enshrined in the Constitution.

The letter addresses the expectations for Guest Chaplains, noting that Barker is ordained by the Standard Community Church. It also highlights that legislative prayer, according to the chaplain’s guidance, “serves to lend gravity to public business, remind lawmakers of their higher purpose, and express a common aspiration for a just and peaceful society,” all of which can be achieved without explicit religious references.

The letter concludes by emphasizing that the ruling in Barker v. Conroy affirms the House's authority to establish and interpret its own rules, making it clear that nontheistic Guest Chaplains can and should be welcomed as part of the program.

“We commend Rep. Pocan for my nomination, which signifies a major step toward promoting inclusivity and religious diversity in our legislative process,” says Barker. “This nomination reflects our shared belief in the importance of respecting all religious and nonreligious viewpoints. We hope Kibben will consider this historic nomination and embrace this important step forward for the U.S. House of Representatives.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the country’s largest freethought organization, with 40,000 nonreligious members and several chapters all across the country.

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