Atheists Protest Pennsylvania Prayer and Fasting Proposals

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — A prominent atheist activist organization is protesting a proposal in the Pennsylvania legislature, which seeks to designate April 30th as National Fast Day and May 2nd as the National Day of Prayer.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has penned a letter of opposition regarding the resolutions, which were passed last month in the House of Representatives. Representative Rick Saccone proposed the first bill, which honors the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of a National Fast Day.

“[I]t is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord,” Lincoln’s proclamation outlined on March 30, 1863.

“[I]nsomuch we know that by His Divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people,”  it continued.

The resolution overwhelmingly passed the Pennsylvania House 160 to 35, and was co-sponsored by over 25 representatives.

A second proposal designating May 2nd as the National Day of Prayer was met with unanimous support.

“Wheras prayer is regarded by millions as the most important utterance for the benefit of humankind; and whereas this nation was founded by single-minded men and women who sought wisdom through prayer; and whereas prayer has aided many people throughout the history of this nation and this Commonwealth when support and guidance were needed; therefore be it resolved that the House of Representatives recognize May 2, 2013, as ‘National Day of Prayer’ in Pennsylvania,” the resolution stated in part.

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However, now FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor has submitted an op-ed letter to newspapers throughout the state decrying the observances.

“It’s shameful that members of the House, by a 160-35 vote, have used a Civil War proclamation as a pretext for endorsing religion today,” she wrote. “The government has no business telling citizens whether or not to engage in religious practices.”

She noted that the organization also sued legislators in the state last year for passing a resolution marking 2012 “The Year of the Bible.”

“Over the last year, the House has declared days of prayer, a day of fasting, a “Prayer Month” and a “Year of the Bible.” Enough already,” Gaylor wrote. “Our message to state representatives is to stop abusing their public office to create religious holidays. It’s time they get off their knees and get to work!”

“Some people want to rewrite history. … But we don’t intend to let them,” Representative Saccone stated last year in response to the organization’s lawsuit.

Governors of all 50 states and the Virgin Islands have declared May 2nd as the National Day of Prayer, the National Day of Prayer Task Force reports. Events are also being planned for 166 federal prisons throughout the country.

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