Religion in Society

Atheists Praise Obama for Downplaying Day of Prayer

| by American Atheists

Amidst reports that the White House will not hold a special ceremony when President Obama declares the National Day of Prayer on Wednesday, an Atheist public policy group is still calling the holiday an unconstitutional promotion of religion.

Under the Bush administration, there were lavish, official ceremonies to mark the presidential endorsement of NDOP. News stories, however, show that this year, President Obama may not host such an event even though he is expected to sign the Proclamation.

Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists, charged that National Day of Prayer is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, and increasingly divisive in a pluralistic, free society.

"No government -- federal, state or local -- has any business encouraging Americans to pray, or telling them when and how to exercise religious beliefs," said Buckner. "Doing so immediately excludes and marginalizes an estimated 15% of our population who 'have no religion.' That's nearly 45 million Americans, most of whom are patriotic, hard-working Americans."

Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists, said that Mr. Obama would be right to not place too much emphasis on the Proclamation signing.

"President Obama regularly acknowledges that Atheists and other nonbelievers are part of our American social landscape, and we thank him for that. We think it is appropriate that he spend his time dealing with complex economic, military and other political problems instead of volunteering as window dressing for the religious right which is behind the National Day of Prayer."

Mr. Silverman added that NDOP is a "wedge issue" and is inappropriate in a free society.

"The decision to pray, or not pray, is best left to individuals. Government needs to get on with creating jobs, dealing with the budget deficit and other real problems and stop acting as a cheerleader for religious groups."