FFRF Places Full-Page Anti-National Day of Prayer Ad in Washington Post

If you open up today’s Washington Post, you will see this lovely ad (click to enlarge):

FFRF advises prayerful public officials to “Get off your knees and get to work.”

FFRF’s ad warns: “There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion.”

FFRF adds: “Nothing fails like prayer. The solutions to humanity’s problems won’t ever come from above. It’s time to place our best energies in making this world better, this world our paradise.”

I’m smirking at the thought of how some people must have spit out their coffee this morning when they opened their newspaper.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • busterggi

    Its thing like this ad that make the theists hate us…wait, they already hated us, never mind.

  • Amanda

    Yeah, this is kind of advertising to your own crowd. Don’t we want to advertise to everyone? We need more on our side, those are the minds we need to open. There are certain words, phrases, and points you unfortunately have to leave out for that to happen. I still find it humorous, but that is because I am already on your side. It is a beautiful designed ad, though! I’m impressed!

  • Aegis

    No, you’re right, it’s things like this ad that make them hate us. Unashamed reminders that we exist. It drives them up the pole.

  • SJH

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. I’m not sure that encouraging is the same thing as prohibiting. It specifically states that people “may” participate. I can understand the tightrope here but I don’t think there is a problem with it. I am curious what the supreme court would say. Has anyone challenged this?

  • liu

    And that, American Athiests, is how you run an ad.

  • Frank

    I did do a spit take at the foolishness of it. So happy to see people waste their money and time.

  • http://reconciled.me Matt Smith

    Don’t understand why a national day of prayer is cause for any kind of concern. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work and it’s no cause for alarm. If it does work and people are praying for the good of the nation then everyone benefits. I understand separation of Church and State and would fear a theocracy as much as any totalitarian form of government. However, it’s foolish to think we’re anywhere near a theocracy. Most of the “religious/christian” leaders are arguing more for power than Jesus. Religion is simply the tool they use. I just don’t think pushing back against a constitutional right is going to make anything better. It just denies the quiet majority who love God, and the gift that Jesus gave us, the right to practice our faith.

  • Kengi


    No one is claiming that “encouraging is the same thing as prohibiting”. The government encouraging a religion is part of government establishment of a religion. SCOTUS has been clear on this in many rulings.

  • Gary

    Matt, citizens have the right to pray and encourage prayer. The government does not. In fact, citizens have the right to have a government that does not pray or encourage it.

  • Kengi

    A church or religious group calling for a national day (or month) or prayer is not a problem. The government calling for a religious invocation by the people is clearly an establishment problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    For equivalency, how about a day where the federal government officially discourages people from praying?

  • JET

    I don’t understand how we have a law on our books that directs the President to proclaim an annual Day of Prayer regardless of his own personal beliefs and in direct opposition to the Constitutional requirement of separation of church and state. The President’s proclamation today was very nicely “weasel-worded”, but my most fervent wish is that someday we have a President who is willing to stand up and say “I took the oath of office promising to uphold the United States Constitution and I refuse to make a proclamation that requires me to violate that oath.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.bowyer.75 Matt Bowyer

    I say that we continue “reminding” them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    Yes. It also violates the separation of powers, as the legislative branch cannot direct the executive branch to make declarations; each branch makes their own declarations.

  • Randomfactor

    Yes, it was actually struck down by a judge a couple years ago. No effect, of course.

    The danger of this is that, unlike proclamations marking “National Rug-weaving Day” and the like, people point to crap like this to claim the US is a “Christian nation.”

  • Randomfactor

    FFRF lost on appeal because of standing–the traditional weasel-your-way-out route for judges. Appeal apparently still pending. SCOTUS would likely deny standing too, if they bothered to look at the case at all.

  • http://reconciled.me Matt Smith

    We’ll have to agree to disagree as to whether or not this is unconstitutional. As far as having the right to have a government that does not encourage prayer, that’s not true. You have the right to want a government that doesn’t and the right to steer the government in that direction.

  • http://reconciled.me Matt Smith

    Good point. Fair is fair and if a group put forth a proposal as such it would be hypocritical to oppose it. But what fun to watch the fireworks. To repeat what I said earlier, arguments of that type are more about power than faith.

  • WallofSleep

    At least they’re “wasting” their own money and time, unlike the creationists who are constantly wasting taxpayers’ money and time.

  • Spuddie

    Much like the foolish time spent educating you or trying to treat you like an intelligent human being.

  • Wild Rumpus

    Look at that – good graphics, interesting and legible fonts, balance and harmony of design… are we sure this ad was designed by atheists?

  • Spuddie

    SCOTUS loves to punt on Establishment clause cases.

  • Gary

    The Establishment Clause has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to mean that our government is not permitted to endorse religion (e.g., encourage prayer). Hence, we have the right to such a government.

  • Wild Rumpus

    There is no agreeing or disagreeing as to whether a National Day of Prayer is a government sanctioned promotion of religion. You have the right to want to live in a theocracy, but the fact is you live in a constitutional democracy. As long as you value the constitution your country was founded on, there is no “right to steer the government”. Freedom of and from religion what the US government is based on and anyone who values the US constitution must stand up to flagrant violations of separation of church and state like a “National Day of Prayer”.

  • Artor

    It does work for it’s intended purpose actually. That purpose is to erode the separation of church & state, so that other more explicitly Xian acts by the gov’t become normalized. Nobody is pushing back against your constitutional rights, they are pushing to have the constitution recognized and followed. You are completely free to practice your faith all you want- just not on the gov’t dime.

  • Artor

    We actually have a gov’t that is not supposed to promote prayer & religion, and it’s incredibly frustrating, not to mention clearly unconstitutional, that it continues to do so.

  • GeraardSpergen

    “If it does work and people are praying for the good of the nation then everyone benefits”

    This is demonstrably false.

    “It just denies the quiet majority who love God, and the gift that Jesus gave us, the right to practice our faith.”

    Seriously? You believe that without a presidential proclamation encouraging you to pray, you are being denied the right to pray? Are you home-schooled?

  • http://reconciled.me Matt Smith

    Actually, I said I did NOT want to live in a theocracy. Otherwise, encouraging a day of interfaith prayer is not establishing religion. Recognizing many, but not establishing.

  • http://reconciled.me Matt Smith

    Demonstrate it.

    There is obviously more to the discussion than
    just a national day of prayer. I said pushing back against a
    constitutional right was denying me my rights. Now, a national day of
    prayer is open to discussion. Freedom of, not freedom from, religion is

    And no I am not home-schooled. I was when I was in
    kindergarten, but only that year, and that was 1982. So, no, I am not
    actively home-schooled, but thanks for asking. Do you sacrifice

  • http://reconciled.me Matt Smith

    The only erosion is going the other way. If you look at the history of this country, we are a far, far less religious society and government than we were just 20 years ago. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go back to the 50′s when girls who got pregnant had to run away and live in a home or some such nonsense. My point is that there is much more separation then there has ever been. How much is enough?

    This will not get solved here. I do appreciate that no one other than mr homeschool took any overtly stereotypical jabs at me. Doing this helps me understand where other people are coming from and helps me not shape my opinion of people through “right wing” media or my own stereotypes.

  • Internet_Zen_Master

    It should be noted that the Founding Fathers did actually have two “national days of prayer” prior to the modern day event. The first day was on July 20, 1775, as a “a day of publick [sic] humiliation, fasting, and prayer” and the second day was on May 9, 1798, declared by John Adams during the Quasi-War with France. Adam’s day of prayer was “a day of solemn humility, fasting, and prayer” that asked Americans to pray that the new country would be safe from any threat. (paraphrasing from the National Day of Prayer wikipedia page)

    The modern National Day of Prayer is simply an old leftover from the Cold War that was used to help demonize the USSR (that and the Rev. Billy Graham was ranting [holding a religious campaign] for SIX FUCKING WEEKS in D.C. about how America had lost the way and would be headed toward ruin if there wasn’t a national day of prayer).

    That said, the FRFF’s usual “shock-jock” approach to things doesn’t earn them any points from me. “Nothing fails like prayer” huh? Actually, it’s kinda pathetic compared to that “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds” sign they’ve got in the Wisconsin State Capitol, but still rather annoying nonetheless.

    So nice going FFRF. You’ve just reinforced the stupid persecution complex of those fundie Christians (they’ll go “look the atheists are trying to oppress Christianity!” like they always do. I guarantee it). Preaching to the rest of the atheist choir doesn’t help if it ticks off everyone who’s not an atheist/freethinker/agnostic.

    Just my two cents.

  • Artor

    Our Constitution was written with a grand new vision in mind; the complete separation of church & state, which had never been tried before. The founders had seen what religion in government had wrought in Europe and elsewhere, and wanted to create a nation that could avoid that bloody fate. Unfortunately, there are few people who can really conceive of that vision, since religion is central to so many people’s worldview, and this is why it has been such a long battle toward real separation. The effort should continue though, as long as there are people who keep insisting on injecting their own religious beliefs into a government meant for all.
    You can have all the religion you want in your life, but you may not use the gov’t to make other people follow your religion. I don’t see why that is such a hard concept to understand.

  • Brian Morgan

    Maybe spaghetti monster?

  • Kengi

    Encouraging people to pray is far more than just “recognizing” religion. It’s encouraging the public to practice religion.

    You also seem to be using a different definition of “establishment” than applies to the law in this case. Establishment of religion, as set forth by the First Amendment, means more than just creating a government religion.

    When the First Amendment was drafted, some of the founders wanted to limit it to simply preventing a government religion, but to allow government to support religions. This was voted down, and the broader version of the establishment clause was passed instead.

    In 1879 the Supreme Court set out to determine the original intent of this clause using the writings and records of the founders. They concluded that the establishment clause meant a wall of separation between church and state.

    In a series of later cases SCOTUS reaffirmed this wall, and in the 1950′s even ruled that this wall must be high and impenetrable.

    By encouraging people to participate in religion the government is overstepping its bounds. How far should we take separation of church and state? To the point where the wall between them is high and impenetrable. Just as the law of the land says it should be.

  • Kengi

    If you look at the history of this country, government is now far more entangled with religion than it was 200 years ago. This entanglement has waxed and waned at different points in our history. It was at a high point in the 1950′s, but we are currently nowhere near as disestablished from religion as we were 200 years back.

    Most of the founders realized (or had learned through studying history through the lens of enlightenment philosophy which was used as a basis for our constitution) that we can only obtain freedom of religion under a government that also guaranteed the right to freedom from religion.

  • Brian Morgan

    Should not have national day of prayer, ever! Gov. respecting religion isn’t proper, especially when it is only white man Christianity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/crystalwheel Crystal Bandy Thomas

    The point for me is that when our governmental officials create and pass into law a national day of prayer, it appears that our governmental officials are endorsing and sanctioning such a day…which is not the jobs our governmental officials were elected to perform. Build roads – yes, religious guidance – No!

  • allein

    I don’t think it really matters how they word it. The religious who are going to get ticked off are going to do so regardless.

  • aaa

    I would love to see more days of “publick [sic] humiliation”

  • JA

    If “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” was set up impromptu on Facebook and gained as much notoriety as it did, I’m pretty sure it would be easy to kick off a “National Day of Blasphemy” for SnG through the same means…It could begin exactly six weeks, six days and six hours after the NDoP for further lulz.