Two Democrats in Congress have issued statements in support of Thursday’s National Day of Reason, according to the group that sponsors the annual event.
The American Humanist Association on Tuesday highlighted recent comments made by Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who both called on Americans to celebrate the secular alternative to the National Day of Prayer.
“The National Day of Reason celebrates the application of reason and the positive impact it has had on humanity,” Honda declared in the Congressional record. “It is also an opportunity to reaffirm the Constitutional separation of religion and government.”
“I encourage all citizens to join in observing this day and focusing upon the employment of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to the resolution of human problems for the welfare of humanity,” Norton said in a statement.
Honda describes himself as a non-denominational Protestant, while Norton is an Episcopalian.
Congress established the National Day of Prayer in 1952 and the yearly celebration occurs on the first Thursday of May. This year’s National Day of Prayer is being led by Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship, who has faced criticism for anti-gay comments.
While the American Humanist Association created the National Day of Reason to counteract the often overtly Christian-themed National Day of Prayer, other groups have unsuccessfully sought to completely end the government’s official involvement in the day.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against the religious celebration in 2008, claiming it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. A federal judge ruled in favor of the FFRF in 2010, but that decision was later overturned by a U.S. appeals court in 2011.
“Our elected officials dishonor their office and their constituents when they promote and attend divisive events that tell a growing minority of Americans that they aren’t worthy of full citizenship,” Roy Speckhardt, the head of the American Humanist Association Executive, said. “Our secular government has no business endorsing expression of some beliefs while excluding others.”
[Eleanor Holmes Norton by Flickr user thisisbossi, Creative Commons-licensed]