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2007 National Day of Reason Church-State Separation Rally, May 3, 2007
The National Day of Prayer happens every year on the first Thursday in May and it spawns a large number of local prayer events around the country. In Austin, it is a tradition to have a prayer event at the Texas State Capitol building.

The National Day of Prayer event has been co-opted by conservative Christians led by James and Shirly Dobson of Focus on the Family. Very few of the "national" events are inclusive of all religions that pray. Elected officials use the event to pander to conservative Christians. Of course, government promotion or endorsement of any religion is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Church-state separation is one of ACA's big issues.

The First Amendment also guarantees those who wish to pray individually or in a group the right to do so. We also support this right. All groups are given equal access to the Capitol for their events. We could not find any violation of church-state separation at the Texas State Capitol event even though the national event with which they participated was clearly in violation. This left the ACA in something of a quandary.

We decided not to protest the local event and instead exercise our own free speech rights in front of the Capitol around lunchtime. We were there in support of the National Day of Reason and for church-state separation. We had about 15 people participating including visitors from out of town and one intrepid Christian who also values church-state separation. Right on!

It appears that the National Day of Prayer event has fallen out of favor a bit. Maybe in the next few years, we'll have more people out with us drawing attention to our great Constitution than who will participate in the Christian prayer event.

This year's event was organized by Shelley Roberts, Chuck Clark, and Joe Zamecki. Photos by Don Baker and Mike.

Joe Zamecki produced a nice flier about the event, which appears below.

Why the National Day of Prayer is just plain wrong.

  1. Today's National Day of Prayer event violates the Constitutional principle of state/church separation by taking place on State Capitol grounds, with elected government officials taking part, endorsing and promoting religion. Government in America is supposed to be neutral on the issue of religion, and the NDOP stands against this important fact. National, state, city and county governments are involved all over America, and some of the events planned are especially infringing.
  2. Of all of the cities in Texas, Austin has more cultural and religious diversity and more of a vibrant history of active liberalism to be proud of. Today's National Day of Prayer event negates that spirit of diversity in every way possible. It implies that all Texans and very well all Americans pray, and want others to pray as well. Well not all Americans or Texas pray, and that's a simple fact that mature worshippers can understand and accept. Having a group religious ceremony at the State Capitol Building is a slap in the face to our proud American diversity.
  3. Prayer itself is insane. To promote the idea that you can change the laws of nature, or solve humankind's deepest and most important problems by appealing to an invisible friend is not only irresponsible, it's dangerous. The terrorist attackers of 9/11 prayed intensively before attacking our great nation. They prayed for strength, remember? Don't promote their delusional activity in our beautiful country! Prayer is insane and dangerous.
If you'd like to know more, visit American Atheists Texas and Atheist Community of Austin. Here's a positive nationwide event for today National Day of Reason.

Photos from the rally

Mike giving them both barrels at the rally.

Some of our gang visiting with a passer-by. The couple on the left came all the way from Houston.

Joe Zamecki and Marla Repka.

Matt with a Christian who agreed with our church-state separaton issue and who joined us for most of the event.

The whole gang.

Another shot including the capitol.

The actual National Day of Prayer event (in the "shark tank"). Note the pentagram at the center of activity (just kidding).

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