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Atheists Demand Equal Time at New D.C. Mayor's Prayer Service

3 years ago
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Here's a brain-teaser for the day: The capital's leading lobby of atheists and humanists is complaining because they have been excluded from an ecumenical prayer service on Sunday morning that will launch inaugural festivities ahead of Mayor-elect Vincent Gray's swearing-in.

"We would prefer that a government function such as an inauguration not be entwined with religion," said Amanda Knief, government relations manager for the Secular Coalition for America (SCA). "However, we find it overtly discriminatory when we request to be part of an ecumenical prayer service that is supposed to unite the entire city and are told there is no place for nontheists."

Knief is also a certified "humanist celebrant"; after learning of the planned prayer service the SCA immediately requested that she be included.

Vincent GrayHumanist celebrants are considered the "the nonreligious equivalent of a clergyperson," according to the SCA. They are certified by a variety of secularist groups and can conduct marriages, civil unions, memorial services, funerals, and other life-cycle ceremonies.

Knief said that a humanist celebrant would be able to "offer words of encouragement and inspiration without religion" if included in the prayer service.

She said that after two days of inquiries, Gray's team responded by saying the lineup was set and no humanist celebrant could be included, though they added that they would have accommodated a secular representative if they'd had prior notice.

"How could we have done that without notification from the mayor-elect's team?" Knief said "We hope that Mayor-elect Gray will recognize the nontheistic community as part of the fabric of D.C. and include us in events such as this."

Gray is a Democrat, and the party has traditionally been seen as the natural home for secularists and the unaffiliated. But even President Obama, who has made a point of mentioning nonbelievers in many of his speeches and proclamations at solemn observances, has alienated some secularists with his faith-based rhetoric and policies.

The Secular Coalition for America has launched an e-mail campaign to protest their exclusion, and atheist activists and groups have already been posting angry comments vowing political revenge against Gray. The event, called "One City . . . Praying Together," is Gray's first official inaugural event and is scheduled to take place at 8 a.m. Jan. 2 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

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188 Comments

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Brent

Government endorsed public prayer is really just a form of speech or category of ideas in the public marketplace of ideas. If the government is going to endorse or give a platform to citizens of various religions to make a public speech directed at the deity of their choice (clergy from a variety of religions are invited), then citizens who hold a non-supernatural world view should also be given equal time to put forth the idea that there may be nobody up there listening to the prayers who can solve our problem for us, so we better all work together by using reason, logic, and hard work to solve the problems we face as a community or society. For the Government to endorse a religious view over a non religious view is clearly a violation of the Constitution.

January 04 2011 at 3:33 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
karlastephens@mac.com

How are these people stopping other people's prayers? They say they would prefer no mingling of government and religion but they aren't stopping it.

They should be included in the prayer service if they wish.

January 02 2011 at 7:40 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
dprtmnt56cllctr

Letting an atheist celebrant attend a prayer service would be like letting a person talk about snakes at a conference about dairy cows! Totally off subject!

December 31 2010 at 1:03 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Sire

Finally the Secular community is speaking up. No longer will they be silent observers of all this religion destroying this world. Nothing good comes from religion- ANY RELIGION. All the bloodiest wars fought in the name of religion. The Crusades, Ireland, 911, you name it.

December 31 2010 at 4:51 AM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Sire's comment
canoeal

Nothing good... Just most of the colleges, hospitals, hospices,and workers with the poor. Oh and most of the medical, food, teaching missions in all the world. Not to mention most systems of justice around the world hold their allegiance to some set of religious beleifs...Including ours.
To the fool: I would have you ponder this Psalm 14:1
The fool[a] says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

December 31 2010 at 10:44 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
dan and boyz

Did you forget the 6 million Jews killed by the Atheistic Nazi's or perhaps the
10 million citizens killed by the atheist Stalin regime. And lets not get into the number of lives lost due to the Atheistic Chinese regime in power right now.

December 31 2010 at 11:31 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
themightyabelard

'I believe that man must learn to live without those consolations called religions, which his own intelligence muust by now have told him belong to the childhood of the race.'-Peter DeVries
Mr DeVries wrote these words nearly 50 years ago....but religion still has many adherents. It's not for me to judge them, or to sneer at them. But all the venom from both believers and nonbelievers one reads on these forums is a distressing reminder of how very immature our society can appear sometimes. Whatever happened to 'agree to disagree' and the concept of allowing others their viewpoint without denigrating them? As far as I'm concerned, everybody's beliefs are correct-for them. If those beliefs are firmly held, then one need not feel threatened by the existence of a fellow human being who sees things differently. Let's cool it with attacking one another....a good New Year's resolution for all might be to extend compassion and understanding to others in place of the rampant hostility and ugliness that's fouling our world.

December 31 2010 at 3:47 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
dpcarlow

Someone, I believe, doonooch, stated: "its all personal struggle and personal decision. you can debate religion vs. atheism until your blue in the face. It just doesnt belong in the public forum. anyone with religious questions have a wide choice of places to get spiritual guidance. But it must not be a religion controled governemt (sic)." President Abraham Lincoln's address at Gettysburgh rightly determined that "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Doonooch mistakenly, or perhaps naively, assumes that people, of faith or of no faith, religious or irreligious, can fail to bring themselves with them to the political table. Worse, he would have us think that politics is a-personal, when the truth is politics is all about people! The only reason politics exists is because people have to find a way to co-exist on this planet of ours. Until we take people out of the planet faith and religion will ever be present, as they should be. Doonooch also mentioned that government is not where people should recieve spiritual guidance (my paraphrase). Doonooch is free to have an opinion, but it would be insincere to present such as "gospel." Again, the United States is essentially about people governing people, and the values, mores, and norms that shape the policies of the nation are shaped by people - people both religious and irreligious. One can rail against the wind on this or allow practicality and logic to rpevail. At present, the 200 plus years of American history has been dominated by a populace predominantly Christian in its worldview and our government still currently reflects that reality. It may be that 100 years from now our government will reflect a secular worldview or perhaps a Buddhist or other such world view. The truth is, this is a political debate wherein secularists are vying to control a landscape that is currently still quite Christian. No need hiding it all in clouds of "Constitutionality vs. UnConstitutionality."

December 31 2010 at 2:24 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Mostberg

This was the first time I saw in writing what should have already been obvious: the Democrat party is the natural home for secular non-theists. And they really should not be distressed that Obama loudly proclaims his support for faith based initiatives. First of all he really has to hold back a snicker of sarcasm when he says that. But also we are aware that Obama is the consumate politician who will say whatever he thinks will get him reelected. And the fact that he had a father figure in the "Reverent" Wright is not any kind of contradiction. That Chicago church was the home of community activism having little to do with what most people call religion. Then again it does give them tax exemptions for their political activities. But I say then let us be consistent one way or the other. Either remove the tax exemtion for primarily politically slanted Left Wing (and Right Wing) churches. Or challenge their fundamentalist secularism as a violation of the separation of Church and State in the public sector. Left wing religious fundamentalism has been attempting to insert their values in everything from our legal system to our schools - that includes their issues of abortion and "hate crimes" to dependency creationism. It is no different from what Right Wing religious fundamentalists are accused of doing regarding more traditional religious issues.

December 31 2010 at 1:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
joyw718

I keep wondering why the SCA is fighting soooo hard to try to silence Christians. They pretend that they just don't want God included in gov't/politics. Political office is just a job like all others. If the politician believes in God; then he/she should be able to include it in their life and events. (That's freedom). It is as though the SCA is trying to restrict open speech on any belief system that does not match their own. Why are they not insisting that politicians be forbidden to talk about the easter bunny and ban all easter egg hunts since some americans find it offensive? Why just Christians???

December 30 2010 at 10:17 PM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to joyw718's comment
andy

There is nothing being intertwined with religion. Pray to the living God who is the creator of the earth and do so continually. Most people becasue of religion dont even know who the living God is or how to pray with him.

December 30 2010 at 9:57 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to andy's comment
orangeb1811

Prayer takes practice and a relationship with God. Being a participating member of a religion can lead you closer but we each are at a different place on our individual journey to God.

December 31 2010 at 6:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
odiegood

Separation of church and state, means, that the government stays out of religious institutions by not co opting them with directives and policy. It does not mean people can not pray in public, worship at government events, display religious documents in government offices.. Ect. The progressives have corrupted Separation of church and state into a war to purge religious systems from American life,

December 30 2010 at 9:53 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to odiegood's comment

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