Please help fight discrimination against atheists by the U.S. chaplain

A Personal Message from Dan Barker
FFRF Co-President

I need your help to fight a congressional policy that not only discriminates against me personally, but against you and every nonbelieving citizen in the United States. I’m suing U.S. House Chaplain Patrick Conroy, a Roman Catholic priest, for explicitly barring me as an atheist from delivering a guest invocation before Congress. A federal judge in the District of Columbia recently threw out my federal court challenge, Barker v. Conroy.

I’m appealing this unfair ruling, and asking for your help for FFRF’s Legal Fund on #GivingTuesday. 

As House chaplain, Conroy has only one official duty: to deliver an opening invocation before the House at the start of the day. Yet Conroy frequently passes on this responsibility to “guest chaplains.” Although there are no written rules, I met Conroy’s de facto requirements, including, as a former minister, still possessing a ministerial ordination. Usually, all it takes to be a guest chaplain is to be sponsored by a member of Congress, which I was. But after many delays, Conroy sent an insulting letter to my representative, Mark Pocan, saying that since I’d announced my atheism publicly, I was ineligible for the honor of solemnizing the House day. (Read my proposed guest invocation here, which met Conroy’s rule to address “a higher power.”)

Nearly 97 percent of House invocations over the past 15 years have been Christian, 2.7 percent Jewish and less than half a percent Muslim or Hindu. More than a third of these prayers were delivered by guest chaplains. A quarter of the U.S. adult population is nonreligious, yet an open nonbeliever has never been invited to give the opening invocation before either House or Senate. Shouldn’t the House of Representatives be representative?

Meanwhile, your tax dollars and mine help pay for more than $800,000 for House and Senate chaplains, their offices and prayers.

Unfortunately, all too many public officials carve out a special exception for atheists, placing us in an exclusive category wherein the usual constitutional rights don’t apply. A recent poll of Americans offered disturbing proof that an alarming number simply don’t believe that First Amendment protections apply to atheists (or Muslims). Some public officials will perform any and all contortions to continue excluding atheists and other nonbelievers.

Help me and FFRF challenge this attitude so that atheists, agnostics, skeptics and other freethinkers will be welcome in “the People’s House.”

Your gift to FFRF on #GivingTuesday or any day is deductible for income-tax purposes. Or phone our office 9-5 weekdays Central Time at 1-800-335-4021 to speak with one of our staff to place a donation. 

Thank you for helping in my historic appeal to recognize the views of nonreligious Americans and our right to participate in our government.

Dan Barker
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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