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National Day of Prayer: Atheist Files Lawsuit after Not being Allowed to Offer Secular Invocation

Veronica Neffinger | iBelieve Contributor | Friday, May 6, 2016

National Day of Prayer: Atheist Files Lawsuit after Not being Allowed to Offer Secular Invocation

The atheist organization Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a lawsuit against the chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives on the National Day of Prayer.

The FFRF filed the lawsuit on behalf of FFRF co-president Dan Barker, an atheist who was not allowed to offer an invocation on the National Day of Prayer.

The Christian Examiner reports that, according to the lawsuit, Father Conroy, a Jesuit priest who serves as the chaplain of the House of Representatives, refused to allow Barker to offer a “secular” prayer at the National Prayer gathering.

Barker had originally been invited to offer the invocation in February 2015 by Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison, Wisconsin.

Nearly a year later, Conroy’s office denied Barker’s request because of his beliefs or lack thereof, saying that all prayers at the event must at least reference a “higher power.”

Barker used to be a minister, but has since renounced his faith and adheres to atheist views. His prayer reportedly referenced “We, the People of the United States,” as the only “higher power.”

Barker alleges that denying him the opportunity to give a secular invocation is to deny the views of a large percentage of Americans who share his atheist views. Non-believes, Barker alleges, “constitute one-fourth of the U.S. population.”

This figure, however, is proven to be highly exaggerated. According to a recent Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Survey, 22.8 percent of Americans say they are “religiously unaffiliated.” This, however, does not necessarily mean they are atheists, but that they do not identify with a particular religion or denomination. The survey also found that only 3.1 percent actually said they were atheists.

In the past, members of many different religions and denominations have offered prayers on the National Day of Prayer, including Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Christian Science, Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Non-denominational, Presbyterian, Quaker, Reformed, and Seventh-Day Adventist, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Mormon. 

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Publication date: May 6, 2016