May 4 2017, National Day of Reason
A consortium of leaders from within the community of reason endorsed the idea of a National Day of Reason. This observance is held in parallel with the National Day of Prayer, on the first Thursday in May each year. The goal of this effort is to celebrate reason—a concept all Americans can support—and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship.
The National Day of Reason website is co-sponsored by the American Humanist Association and the Washington Area Secular Humanists.
The Day of Reason also exists to inspire the secular community to be visible and active on this day to set the right example for how to effect positive change. Local organizations might use “Day of Reason” to label their events, or they might choose labels such as Day of Action, Day of Service, or Rational Day of Care. The important message is to provide a positive, useful, constitutional alternative to the exclusionary National Day of Prayer.
To facilitate the commemoration of the National Day of Reason by individuals and organizations throughout the U.S., the American Humanist Association and the Washington Area Secular Humanists joined together in 2003 to launch this National Day of Reason web site.
This web site is designed to serve as the focal point for an effort to recognize the National Day of Reason, and as a platform to offer a criticism of the federally-sponsored National Day of Prayer. We hope that it will be a resource to the community of reason, the press, and the general public.
Why Do We Oppose the National Day of Prayer?
The National Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution because it asks federal and local government entities to set aside tax dollar supported time and space to engage in religious ceremonies. This results in unconstitutional governmental support of religion over no religion.
Lead by fundamentalist Christian Shirley Dobson, the National Day of Prayer Task Force promoted thousands of events specifically in accordance with its Judeo-Christian beliefs and focused on a small segment of the Protestant Christianity. Since they hold their events on the government sponsored National Day of Prayer, government officials of all levels participate in these events as if they were government endorsed.
The Supreme Court has made it clear (and most Americans agree) that state sponsored prayer in school is inappropriately exclusionary. Why is a nationally sponsored day of prayer any more inclusive? This national effort geared toward a small slice of the religious spectrum is clearly outside the boundaries of proper governmental reach.
The National Day of Prayer makes those who don’t pray feel like second-class citizens. Why set aside a national day that needlessly excludes?
Religious Americans who wish to pray don’t need to be reminded by government to do so, so there’s no reason to limit prayer to a single day for those who chose to practice their chosen faith in that way. Government has no business saying when or what Americans should do when and if they engage in religious practice.
Government also violates the First Amendment with the National Day of Prayer by acting to promote a certain manifestation of religion. It emphasizes only one form of religious practice, and therefore discriminates against the many others, including alms giving, social justice, fasting, peace activism and meditation.
Many traditional religious groups encourage adherents not to make their prayer public, so this state sponsored public display of prayer is a direct affront to such teachings and disrespects countless religious Americans. Many Americans faithfully follow the words from the Sermon on the Mount, “When you pray don’t do it loudly in the synagogue or on street corners so that everyone can see you and think you are really good and holy.”
Whenever government involves itself in religious practice as is done with the National Day of Prayer it taints that religious practice by reducing the co-opted religion’s effectiveness to protest government action, and also (in an infeasible effort to broaden the practice’s appeal) government inappropriately dilutes the messages of faithful adherents.
Freedom of expression and worship, including the opportunity to pray or not pray as we wish, are already present without government endorsement. There is no need to set-aside a public day for prayer.
The National Day of Reason is a secular celebration for humanists, atheists, and other secularists and freethinkers in response to the National Day of Prayer, a legal holiday in the United States. The day is celebrated on the first Thursday in May of every year, to coincide with the National Day of Prayer, which many atheist and secular groups view to be unconstitutional. The purpose of the National Day of Reason is to "celebrate reason—a concept all Americans can support—and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship." The National Day of Reason is also meant to help build community among the non-religious in the United States.
Iowa City Issues “Day of Reason” Proclamation After Joint Request from Students and Local Activists
April 13, 2017
by Hemant Mehta
Give credit to the atheist activists in Iowa: They’re pressuring city councils to issue “Day of Reason” proclamations or make them look like fools for saying no.
The Eastern Iowa Atheists and the Secular Students at Iowa worked together to get Iowa City to issue the proclamation this month. It’ll designate May 4 as the Day of Reason in the city, and it’s a joy to hear Mayor Jim Throgmorton read the statement out loud:
Secular Students at Iowa President Daniel Valentin made a public statement of gratitude at the same meeting:
The two groups accepted the proclamation together at the April 4th regular city council meeting. Secular Students at Iowa President Daniel Valentin offered some words to the mayor and city council regarding the proclamation, which celebrates reason as a guiding principle for humanity.
“This is a historic moment for our state as this is the first time a non-student atheist and secular group has worked directly with a student led group to get a city to do this,” said [Eastern Iowa Atheists founder and Director Justin] Scott who added that all previous proclamations were the result of requests by non-student groups. “The Eastern Iowa Atheists feel working with student groups is a great way for non-student groups to build a bridge to the next generation of atheist activists. It’s important that we cultivate an environment where student groups and their members are encouraged to play an important role in our activism.”
Scott said the partnership was something he and his group had been wanting to do for a while.
“The members of student groups like SecSI are the future leaders in the atheist and secular movement so we need to welcome, embrace and harness their unique talents and life experiences.”
Iowa City, which issued a similar proclamation last year, joins Cedar Rapids and Waterloo as the only cities in the state to mark the Day of Reason.