FFRF denounces Christian nationalism at Louisiana gov. inaugural

Louisiana state capitol building

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry not to elevate Christian nationalist voices during official events after a disturbing prayer at his inaugural.

The Jan. 7 inauguration ceremony at the Louisiana Capitol included a prayer delivered by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an evangelical Christian organization deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The prayer was overtly Christian, referencing “Jesus Christ,” and quoting from Zechariah 4. Perkins concluded the prayer by asking for blessings “In Jesus’s name” to fulfill Landry’s administration’s goals.

“Perkins prays for the audience to stop leaning on ‘governmental schemes and political power,’ and instead look to a deity that many do not share,” write FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The prayer contained numerous disturbing features, including the claim that individual rights do not emanate from the government, but because of divine intervention. FFRF points out that rights are due to human-made laws.

Perkins’ prayer additionally stated that his god, and not the voters of Louisiana, placed Landry and other elected officials in office. Worst of all, Perkins prayed to his god that the “words and deeds of our leaders would glorify you.” FFRF points out that “this is the opposite of what any government actor should do. Government office is not a medium for individuals to receive a spiritual kickback. Rather, it is an avenue to better society — irrespective of religion. Your words and deeds should be about upholding your respective oaths of office, which includes the duty to uphold the secular Constitution.”

Landry represents a diverse population that consists not only of Christians but atheists and agnostics who do not believe in prayer or deities. The inclusion of sectarian prayer in an official government swearing-in ceremony at the Louisiana Capitol sends an official message of preference for religion over nonreligion and exclusion to many of Landry’s constituents. Nonreligious Americans are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification, now making up three-in-10 Americans.

Public officials given the privilege of serving Americans, in any capacity, must be guided by our godless and entirely secular Constitution, barring religious tests for public office and any establishments of religion of government, instead of injecting religion into public life to raise easy political capital, FFRF emphasizes.

“Gov. Landry made a bad choice allowing for this overtly Christian prayer to be presented at the inauguration ceremony,” adds Gaylor. “Perkins took advantage of the chance he was given to spread Christian nationalist propaganda — showing just how dangerous elevating these voices can be.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 100 members in Louisiana. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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Freedom From Religion Foundation

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