Last week, Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced House Resolution 670 in the US House of Representatives, recognizing May 5, 2016, as the National Day of Reason (NDOR).
The National Day of Reason is the inclusive alternative to the National Day of Prayer (NDOP), an annual observance already held on the first Thursday of May. The National Day of Prayer was created by a congressional resolution approved by President Harry S. Truman that calls on the president to issue an annual proclamation encouraging Americans to pray in thanks for America’s freedom and other values. The proclamation establishes the NDOP through government recognition.
Unfortunately, the National Day of Prayer excludes the 23 percent of all Americans who are either nonreligious or nontheistic and don’t pray but wish to celebrate the important values lauded during the NDOP. Instead of advocating to end the National Day of Prayer, the AHA advocates for a National Day of Reason as an inclusive alternative worthy of government recognition. The goal of this effort is to celebrate reason—a concept all Americans (both religious and nonreligious) can support—and to promote public policy that is based on reason and logic instead of politics and ideology.
In the past, the Republican governors of Iowa and Nebraska, as well as the Democratic governors of Delaware and Rhode Island (along with numerous mayors and city councils), have issued National Day of Reason proclamations, and members of Congress have issued statements on the record honoring the NDOR. Last year, after a lobbying campaign by Reps. Honda and Norton, a NDOR resolution was even introduced in the House of Representatives, only to be reintroduced this week after failing to pass in the previous session of Congress.
As was to be expected, members of the religious right and their allies on Fox News weren’t too happy to see that this resolution was introduced in Congress. On a Fox News show called Outnumbered, several guests voiced their frustrations about this resolution and the observance in general, with guest Mike Baker claiming that the resolution shows the “downward decline of this nation.” An even more nonsensical complaint came from co-host Andrea Tantaros, who claimed that “atheists get most days” and as a result they shouldn’t have a National Day of Reason, neglecting the fact that the Day of Reason is not an atheistic or religious holiday but an observance that people of all faiths and of no faith can support.
It’s this theme of inclusion that worried Tantaros most, as the host seemed more interested in having the government support her specific religious beliefs than include all theistic and nontheistic views. Tantaros said as much at the end of the segment, demanding that supporters of the National Day of Reason should just “let the Christians have their National Day of Prayer.”
What’s interesting here is that Tantaros seems to suggest that the National Day of Prayer is an explicitly Christian event, which in fact backs up claims by critics that it’s a sectarian religious event that shouldn’t receive government support.
Unfortunately, Fox News seems content with misrepresenting the National Day of Reason as some sort of atheist Lollapalooza instead of giving its viewers the facts about its inclusive and religiously neutral character. This distortion of reality, combined with Fox’s open embrace of a seemingly sectarian religious event, doesn’t inspire much confidence in the network’s journalistic standards or dedication to reporting the facts free from personal or religious bias. But at this point, no reasonable person should be surprised by Fox’s aversion to reality.