Today is the National Day of Reason, observed in parallel with the National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday in May each year. The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance during which the president issues a proclamation encouraging Americans to pray in thanks for America’s freedom and other values. The observance was first created in 1952 by an act of Congress and signed by President Harry Truman.
Unfortunately, the Day of Prayer excludes the 23 percent of all Americans who are nonreligious and don’t pray, but who wish to celebrate the important values which are lauded during the observance. The National Day of Reason was therefore created as a viable, inclusive alternative to the National Day of Prayer and it is equally 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, Republican governors of Iowa and Nebraska, as well as Democratic governors of Delaware and Rhode Island have issued NDOR proclamations, and congressional resolutions have been introduced to establish a National Day of Reason.
This year Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) worked with the American Humanist Association to introduce House Res. 263, recognizing May 4, 2017, as the National Day of Reason. Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) co-sponsored it.
This year’s resolution is especially relevant given the recent conversation in the nation’s capital about several religious liberty issues, such as repealing the Johnson Amendment and allowing houses of worship to participate in elections while maintaining their 501(c)(3) status.
And today, President Trump signed an executive order on religious liberty that threatens the separation of church and state while allowing individuals to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs. “Freedom doesn’t come from government,” Trump told the crowd gathered in the Rose Garden to witness the signing and celebrate the National Day of Prayer. “It comes from God in heaven,” the historically churchless president said. According to ABC News, the Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty “instructs the Treasury Department not to target the tax-exempt status of churches and other institutions for supporting political candidates, which is currently forbidden.” And according to USA Today, the order makes it “easier for employers with religious objections not to include contraception coverage in workers’ health care plans, although it would be up to federal agencies to determine how that would happen.”
Because of these harmful actions on religious liberty, it’s all the more important that Americans stand up for the separation of church and state and for the idea that reason, not religious ideology, should be the basis of public policy and legislation.