FFRF: “Thoughts and prayers” are not enough for school shootings — and never have been

Nothing Fails Like Prayer

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is sickened by the massacre at an elementary school in Texas in which 21 people, including 19 children, have been senselessly murdered by a young man armed with assault rifles. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the grieving families of this terrible carnage.

In the last few days, the United States has again witnessed multiple mass shootings — first in Buffalo, N.Y., where 10 Black individuals were slaughtered in a racially motivated attack at a grocery store. Then, in Laguna Woods, Calif., a gunman opened fire in a church. Now, there’s yesterday’s massacre of children in Texas. FFRF deplores all gun violence, which, unfortunately, occurs on a regular basis in the United States, and will continue to speak out until a reason-based approach to meaningful regulation is adopted.

Already, religious platitudes — thoughts and prayers — are pouring out from elected officials nationwide. There are also calls for a “return to God” as a purported solution to the gun violence epidemic instead of calls for meaningful action. It is far past time that we take real steps to address these massacres rather than telling people to pray about it (which is the same as doing nothing).

For instance, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick went on Tucker Carlson’s show hours after the killings to say, “We gotta unify in prayer. We have to unify in faith. . . . This was a country founded on faith, Tucker.”

Following the shooting, Rep. Brian Babin (also from Texas) espoused white Christian nationalist rhetoric, claiming: “The United States of America has always had guns. It’s our history. We were built on the Judeo-Christian foundation and with guns.”

It is a lie that the United States was built on a Judeo-Christian foundation — to the contrary it was the first country to explicitly omit all religious references in its Constitution, except for those separating state and church. Nor is it true that our Constitution requires us to guarantee unfettered access to assault weapons. The insistence by these elected officials to double down on the “God, guns and country” stance in the face of mass murders instead of enacting legislation to protect our children and our nation isn’t just insanity, it’s inhumanity.

Babin’s remarks follow a long trend of invoking religion rather than taking action to address gun violence. Rep. Tony Gonzales, whose district includes the site of the shooting, tweeted, “Pray for our families” along with a bible verse. Sen. Ted Cruz (who, of course, represents Texas) said he was “lifting up in prayer the entire Uvalde community,” adding that he does not see gun control measures as an appropriate response.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott predictably commented, “The first lady and I extend our prayers of comfort to the survivors and the families of the victims, and we will continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”

These statements are reminiscent of what Abbott said following the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, when he called for the usual mindless “thoughts and prayers” at a press conference on the shooting and tweeted, “We ask God to bind up the wounds of all who’ve been harmed.”

The calls for prayer did nothing in 2019, and they will do nothing now. Our lawmakers, at both the state and federal levels, have the ability to address this recurring carnage if they choose to do so, but instead they appeal to religion and do nothing.

Other political figures from across the country have chimed in with similar pointless verbiage. Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted: “It is in times like these that we should, as individuals, communities, and as a nation, turn to God for comfort and healing.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene followed deflection — “Our nation needs to take a serious look at the state of mental health today” — with denial: “We don’t need more gun control. We need to return to God.”

Last night, President Biden addressed the nation in primetime and predictably quoted Scripture. He “ask[ed] the nation to pray” for the parents and siblings of victims. This, at least, was followed up by a fervent call for legislative action.

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor points out, “Fully 94 percent of FFRF’s 36,000 members support common sense tighter restrictions on gun control. This shows what a crucial issue this is, with nearly unanimous agreement among the secular community.”

As long as public officials continue to urge prayer — and they always mean Christian prayer — FFRF will continue to call them out for failing to provide real solutions.

“Prayer is a way of pretending that you’re doing something when you’re doing nothing at all,” adds Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “Prayer is pure posturing.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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