A self-described “Christian conservative tea-party Republican" elected official in Virginia compared atheists to Islamic State militants as he urged residents to pray during their Thanksgiving gatherings.
Wayne Hazzard, chairman of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors, skipped the customary invocation ahead of Tuesday's meeting and asked fellow board members to indulge him, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I think it appropriate that we continue to remember the reason that this great nation was formed and by whose grace it continues to survive,” Hazzard said, reading from a statement. “Christians who formed our nation celebrated days of thanksgiving to God. The Jamestown and Plymouth colonists recognized that they were sustained only by God’s providence and celebrated Thanksgiving feasts.”
The elected official pointed out that the first three U.S. presidents issued proclamations asking Americans to express thanks to God, and each president since Abraham Lincoln has issued annual Thanksgiving proclamations.
Then Hazzard compared non-religious Americans to Islamic terrorists.
"These days of an enemy from outside of this country, as well as people from within, who would attempt to remove all recognition of God from public life, we offer this proclamation as a reminder that the United States has always acknowledged our nation ... is dependent on God’s grace and providence," he said.
Hazzard proposed a resolution urging Hanover County residents to pray at Thanksgiving, and the board adopted it.
The proclamation violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, according to legal experts.
“Government action encouraging prayer is antithetical to the letter and spirit of the Constitution of the United States,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. “Our freedom of religion depends at its foundation on the fact that our Constitution ensures that America has no government-sponsored religion.”
Watch Hazzard's proclamation posted online by the Friendly Atheist: