Voluntary Day of Prayer in Tennessee Upsets Atheists

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and his wife, Maria, have invited the people of their state to join them today in a voluntary “Day of Prayer, Humility and Fasting.”

In a Twitter video, Lee explained: “Everywhere that Maria and I travel across this great state we’ve met with countless numbers of people that come up to me and say, ‘Governor, we’re praying for you and for Maria and for your family.’”

“We know that prayer accomplishes much,” Lee said. “Prayer strengthens our families and it strengthens our communities. It strengthens our relationship with our neighbors. It strengthens our relationship with God himself.”

Atheist groups objected, claiming that the proclamation violates the U.S. Constitution.

“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages, as the governor must know,” wrote Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “The Supreme Court has explained that the ‘First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.’”

Barker and Gaylor are quoting from the 1968 Supreme Court decision in Epperson v. Arkansas, but in the decades since then, federal courts have upheld the constitutionality of such days of prayer. And in a recent interview with Decision, law professor E. Gregory Wallace noted that all of the current Supreme Court justices now agree that “there is room for religious expression within the governmental sphere.”

Franklin Graham applauded the Tennessee proclamation. “Imagine if every state did this,” he wrote on Facebook. “Neither political party can solve the problems our country faces. The only true hope for our nation is Almighty God. If you are in the state of Tennessee, I strongly encourage you to participate—and to let Gov. Lee know you appreciate his stand. … And the rest of us can lift up our home states in prayer!”

Gov. Lee’s proclamation reads as follows:

“Whereas, the people of Tennessee are thankful to call this remarkable state home, from the towering Smoky Mountains in the east to the mighty Mississippi River in the west, and every remarkable scene in between; for our people who come from all over the world to find opportunity and hope in our thriving cities and beautiful rural communities; for this and much more we give thanks; and

“Whereas, we seek forgiveness from our transgressions; from acts of discrimination, oppression and injustice; and inaction caused by greed, pride, and indifference; for these and many more we ask forgiveness; and

“Whereas, the people of Tennessee seek wisdom and discernment for our state in the days ahead to support thriving families and communities across our state, to promote an environment of opportunity for every Tennessean, and to ensure our safety and freedom; for these challenges we seek wisdom; and

“Whereas, the people of Tennessee acknowledge our rich blessings, our deep transgressions, and our complex challenges, and further acknowledge the need to give thanks to God Almighty, to turn from our transgressions and ask for God’s forgiveness, and to humble ourselves and seek God’s wisdom and guidance;

“Now, therefore, I, Bill Lee, Governor of the State of Tennessee, do hereby proclaim October 10, 2019, as a voluntary Day of Prayer, Humility, and Fasting in Tennessee and encourage all citizens to join me in this worthy observance.”

Photo: AP