FFRF to Doyle: Be governor for Wis. nonbelievers, too

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle is being asked to respond to a very pertinent question by the Freedom From Religion Foundation: "Did you know that your title is being usurped for a private Christian event in a way that appears to confer the endorsement of your office upon it, thus singling out and preferring Christianity over other religions?"

FFRF asked Doyle that in a May 4 letter following up one sent last week to all 50 governors alerting them the National Day of Prayer had been declared unconstitutional April 15 by a federal judge.
According to The Christian Courier, which calls itself "America's longest-running Christian newspaper," the “Annual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast” is being held May 6 at the Italian Conference Center in Milwaukee. The religious event coincides with another one — the National Day of Prayer.

"We understand that you have been invited to this event in your official capacity as Governor of the State of Wisconsin. If you have given your written or verbal assent to this, we ask that you immediately contact the sponsors to disassociate yourself from this Christian event given in your name," said the letter from Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, FFRF co-presidents.

Doyle is not running for reelection and hasn't announced if he'll attend the breakfast. The Christian Courier said the program includes Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, who's running as a Republican for governor. Other public officials slated to attend are West Allis Fire Capt. Michael Schauz and Brig. Gen. Donald Dunbar, state National Guard adjutant general.

While NDP organizers paint the prayer events as all-inclusive (you can even meditate!), The Courier's mission statement sounds more like exclusivity: "The two-fold mission of The Christian Courier is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to cover those events which are newsworthy and illustrate the unity we share in Him. Follow Us Following Him™."

"This Christian event appears to carry the Office of the Governor’s stamp of approval, which offends the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Wisconsin state constitution," the Foundation's letter says. "While elected officials may of course attend private functions on their own time in their personal capacity, it is a misuse of office for the Governor or his staff to promote, organize or co-sponsor such activities as have commonly been spawned by the unconstitutional National Day of Prayer, such as prayer breakfasts, or to lend the Governor’s name to a 'Governor’s Prayer Breakfast.' The Christian Courier, which is the actual sponsor of this event, should be asked to use their own names on invitations, and not imply State or gubernatorial approval or sponsorship.

"If you have not consented, we urge your office to immediately advise the Christian Courier to cease and desist hijacking the title of the Governor to name and promote its private religious event."

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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