Updated: Tuesday, 27 Apr 2010, 9:46 PM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 27 Apr 2010, 9:46 PM CDT
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging leaders across the country not to participate in next week's National Day of Prayer. On Tuesday, the organization of agnostics and atheists sent a letter making that request to about 700 leaders across the country.
"The letter says that we're asking mayors and the governors in their official capacity to refrain from issuing a National Day of Prayer proclamation or participate in those events in an official capacity," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The group's request comes after a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the day unconstitutional earlier this month.
"To come together as a community and celebrate a National Day of Prayer I think is OK. There's no harm in that. There's only good that comes out of it," said Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt.
Schmitt, an avid prayer himself, said he will issue a prayer proclamation this year anyway. It's something he has done every year since he was elected mayor. It coincides with the National Day of Prayer, a yearly presidential proclamation encouraging Americans to pray publicly.
"We don't tell anybody they have to do anything on that day. It's just something we support," said Schmitt.
Gaylor believes prayer proclamations are inappropriate, especially considering the recent federal ruling. Though, the judge in the case said the ban does not take effect until the appeals process is over.
"This is what people, many of them, came to our country to avoid: religious tyranny in government. The danger of this National Day of Prayer legislation is that the religious right is using the government to promote its message," said Gaylor.
Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray. This year, the National Day of Prayer falls on May 6.
Schmitt said there will be three events this year in Green Bay, including a lunch hosted by his wife Donna. The invitations even include Mayor Schmitt's name and picture.
"As mayor, I've lent my name to the event. I'm proud to be affiliated what that day, I think it's good for our community and I think it's good for individuals," said Schmitt