The Wisconsin based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey Monday, criticizing her Friday press conference and demanding that she stop using her office to promote Christianity.
The group chastised Ivey for, “Your use of your office to promote Christianity. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to non-theism.”
On Friday, Gov. Ivey held a press conference to announce that she was issuing a stay-at-home order for the State of Alabama. FFRF did not oppose the order itself; but Ivey’s speech during the press conference.
“Multiple concerned Alabama residents reported that you used this official government event to promote your personal religious beliefs,” the FFRF wrote. “In the middle of your speech you suddenly started preaching,”
“The good Lord reminds us in Isaiah 43:1-3, and I quote, “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God,” Ivey said drawing the ire of the FFRF. “I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous hand.”
“You next invited Reverend Cromwell Handy from the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church to speak at this official state-sponsored event,” the FFRF charged. “Reverend Handy delivered a 9-minute long sermon, during which he recited many different bible verses and referred to the pandemic as an opportunity given by God “to pause and reflect on His glory.””
“To end the press conference, you asked Reverend Handy “to lead a prayer to God Almighty asking for his blessings.,”” ,the FFRF continued in the letter. “Reverend Handy then led all of the government officials present in a lengthy formal prayer “in Jesus’ name.””
“These actions amount to an endorsement of religion, specifically Christianity, in contravention of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” the FFRF claimed. “The First Amendment wisely prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages. The Supreme Court has said time and again that the “First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.” McCreary Cty., Ky. v. Am. Civil Liberties Union of Ky”
“Preaching and praying as part of an official state-sponsored press conference sends the message that you, as governor, and the State of Alabama prefer and endorse religion, specifically the Christian faith,” the FFRF continued. “This violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
“We write to remind you that, as governor, you represent a diverse population that consists not only of religious individuals, but of atheists and agnostics who do not believe in a deity, much less the power of prayer,” the Foundation stated. “The decision to preach and to invite a reverend to pray as part of a state press conference sends an unfortunate official message of endorsement of religion over non-religion by the highest executive office in the state—a message that inevitably excludes many of your constituents and has a proselytizing intent. A message to encourage safety and show governmental concern in a time of hardship could have been effectively conveyed without prayer and the unnecessary entanglement of government and religion.:
“We urge you in the future to refrain from promoting religion in your official capacity as governor of Alabama,” the FFRF stated. “In conclusion, we ask that you, as governor of Alabama, remain cognizant that you have taken an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution — an entirely godless and secular document, and are charged with great responsibility over citizens, including those citizens who may not share your personal religious viewpoints. Leaving religion as a private matter for private citizens is the wisest public policy. Observing a strict separation of church and state offends no one and honors the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We appreciate your attention to this matter, and encourage you to stand up for the constitutional principle of the separation between state and church, which unites and protects all citizens, in good times and in bad.’
The FFRF regularly threatens Alabama school boards and local governments that they feel have crossed the line into endorsing Christianity.
On Tuesday, the Governor plans to hold a Ribbons of Hope press conference with the medical community and first responders to ask citizens to tie ribbon around trees, mailboxes, etc. as a symbol of prayers and hope for the healthcare workers and first responders. Ministers will reportedly be guests of the Governor at this event.