It’s Official: Some Office Holders Put Reason on Par with Prayer, Others Don’t

A little over a month ago, the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR) asked its groups to increase their involvement in support of the National Day of Reason, either by applying for proclamations in their respective states or by participating in a National Week of Action. The first CoR that reported success was Omaha CoR, whose coordinator, Tom Gray, petitioned Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and the mayors of Omaha and Bellevue to proclaim May 7, 2015, the National Day or Reason. Gray notes he expected resistance, particularly from the conservative governor, but that “it was easy to get the proclamations, and that’s the message to send the other CoRs.”

Unfortunately, other CoRs did not experience such ease securing similar proclamations. Take Connecticut CoR. They received the same action alert from UnitedCoR, followed their state’s protocols, and then waited for a positive response. Unlike Omaha CoR, Connecticut was denied, and furthermore, weren’t given a reason for their denial. Pat McCann, coordinator for Connecticut CoR, confirmed that their proclamation request was submitted on time and that he followed up with emails to the governor’s office on March 10, 2015. However, on April 6, he phoned the office of Governor Dannel P. Malloy to inquire if there had been a decision made regarding their proclamation request and was then informed that their request was denied.

McCann also discovered that while Malloy had denied their National Day of Reason proclamation request, he had granted a request for a National Day of Prayer (NDoP) proclamation. A Freedom of Information Act request was submitted to the governor’s office and it was confirmed that between January 1 and April 10, 2015, the office received 675 proclamation requests. Of these, 601 (89 percent) were granted and only seventy-four were denied.

After McCann connected with UnitedCoR for assistance, we also phoned the governor’s office for clarification. Our call was taken by “Jason” (a member of the Constituent Services Office who would not divulge his surname), and when I asked him why the governor’s office denied the National Day of Reason proclamation, he only answered, “I don’t know.” Despite pointing out that a conservative Christian group was able to receive a proclamation and that it could be perceived as favoring one sincerely held belief over others, Jason offered no explanation, only that we could refer our concerns to his supervisor, Kathryn D’Amato (who was unavailable).

Meanwhile, Connecticut CoR mobilized and started to email their concerns to Governor Malloy and they also phoned D’Amato’s office. For five consecutive days, emails were not returned to UnitedCoR or Connecticut CoR, nor were anybody’s phone calls returned. Connecticut CoR expressed their concerns that the governor’s office staff was acting unprofessionally towards members of the public, or worse, that they were hiding something. Along with continued efforts to receive a reply, Connecticut CoR board member Dennis Paul Himes had a letter to the editor published in the Hartford Courant in which he raised concerns that Malloy was displaying a lack of care and concern to the growing nontheistic community in Connecticut.

The National Day of Prayer’s history dates to the early 1950s, just two years before the words “under God” were inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance. Using historical precedent, I am almost certain that elected officials who sign NDoP proclamations are somehow encouraged or inspired by the invitation for “all faiths to pray for the nation,” as the NDoP’s website states. However, reading further about the NDoP’s Task Force clarifies its agenda: “It exists…to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families. The Task Force represents a Judeo-Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.”

I personally wrote to Gov. Malloy and to the four members of the NDoP’s Task Force on April 8, expressing my concerns for the denial of other sincerely held belief groups to have their own proclamation while protecting the privilege of one particular ideology over others. I also expressed concerns that the NDoP’s Task Force policies exclude many other theistic groups as “the God of the Bible” doesn’t address their beliefs. Neither Malloy nor any member of the task force responded to my request for comment.

In order to ensure proclamations for prayer, the NDoP has created further division in our country, rather than unity. What strikes me as the most ironic about the NDoP’s desire to ensure that America has a day dedicated for prayer is that they seem to ignore the teachings of Jesus on this matter: “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners where everyone can see them. I assure you: that will be their only reward.”

Nebraska's Day of Reason state proclamation Bellevue, NE Day of Reason city proclamation