After divisive prayer, FFRF urges Illinois county to drop practice

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling on an Illinois county board to discontinue opening meetings with prayer.

The request by the national state/church watchdog (on behalf of its Illinois membership) to the Sangamon County Board in Springfield, Ill., comes after a divisive and controversial prayer. On Dec. 13, board member Mike Sullivan called on onlookers to “celebrate the birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ,” and falsely claimed the United States of America is “founded on godly principles by God-fearing men and women who believed in the Holy Bible. “

Prayer at government meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive, FFRF remarks in its letter to the Springfield board. The board, declares FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, “ought not to lend its power and prestige to religion by scheduling, hosting or conducting governmental prayers.”

Compounding the problem is Sullivan’s exclusionary prayer, inaccurately portraying the United States as tantamount to a Christian nation and erroneously claiming that our secular government is founded on a deity.

“Our nation is founded on a godless Constitution, whose only references to religion in government are exclusionary,” Seidel writes. The framers of our Constitution never prayed during the four-month Constitutional Convention.

FFRF ends its request for the board to drop prayer by noting the New Testament itself frowns on a pious show of prayer. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemned public prayer as hypocrisy and advised believers to follow his commands by praying in secret in a closet. (Matthew 6:5-6)

“When religion intrudes into our civic government, it creates ‘insiders’ among believers, and turns the rest of us into ‘outsiders, ” notes FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Sullivan is very misguided to imply that the United States is a theocracy imposing a religious litmus test for citizenship.” Gaylor observes that a quarter of the adult population and a third of Millennials currently identify as nonreligious.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an association of 25,000 freethinkers (atheists and agnostics), including more than 800 in Illinois, works to keep religion out of government.

Photo via Shutterstock by Cheryl Casey

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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