An Open Letter To Barack Obama On National Day of Prayer

Dear President Barack Obama,

I'm writing today to urge you to reconsider your position on the National Day of Prayer. I was most displeased to hear that you will continue to acknowledge the National Day of Prayer, despite the recent Supreme Court Ruling of its unconstitutionality. I feel that Judge Crabb's ruling in this case was correct. While the White House argues that this ruling does not prevent you from issuing a Presidential Proclamation recognizing this day, doing so ostracizes a significant body of your constituents and contradicts the spirit of the Constitution.

I would like to say that I supported you in the 2008 election. During your campaign, you presented yourself as a man of reason and principle. Having moved from California to Virginia earlier that year, I felt like my vote made a difference for the first time in my life. This feeling was reaffirmed during your acceptance speech when you specifically thanked “non-believers” among other groups. As a atheist, this was the first time I had heard any President speak of “non-believers” in a positive light. I felt a glimmer of hope that CHANGE was possible.

Since then, that glimmer of hope has been gradually dying out. You promised to end the war in the Middle East, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and yet the military occupation continues. You promised to end the arrests of medical marijuana users acting in accordance with state laws, and yet the DEA raids have continued. Dreams of single-payer health care were reduced to hopes for a public-option, and eventually turned into “be happy you got any health care reform at all”. You promised an environmentally conscious energy policy, but shifted your stance to support offshore drilling about a month before the BP oil spill. You continue to proclaim support for ending “Don't Ask, Don't Tell”, but I'm beginning to doubt that this will go through either.

In the times of old, people prayed for things that were beyond their control. People prayed for rain in periods of drought. When that didn't work, they offered virgin sacrifices. Nowadays these practices are largely obsolete. Instead of praying for rain, we build aqueducts and irrigation systems. Instead of praying for the sick to improve in health, we intervene with medical treatment. While some people continue to pray in times of desperation, I am not one of them. For myself and others like me, the act of prayer is considered an ineffective method for bringing about change. Actions consistently provide better outcomes than prayers. This is my request to you: instead of a Day of Prayer, proclaim May 6th as a Day of Action. The American people didn't elect you to office to “pray for change”, they elected you to “act for change”.

Make no mistake, such a declaration would undoubtedly draw heat from the religious community. Bear in mind that we atheists suffer through this discrimination everyday of our lives. Hate mail and death threats are no strangers to atheists who speak their minds. The separation of church and state is one of the founding principles of this nation, set forth in the Constitution that you have sworn to uphold, and I hope that you can set aside your personal views to uphold the rights of the “non-believers” who helped elect you to your present position. To pursue an appeal of Judge Crabb's decision is a waste of government resources. There are more pressing matters that need your attention.

Please Mr. President, use May 6th to bring us a real moment of “peace and goodwill” by withdrawing our nations troops from their posts overseas. Prove your commitment to treat everyone with “dignity and respect” by ending “Don't Ask, Don't Tell”. Show that the right “to love one another” extends to everyone, including those in the LGBT community, by making a motion to repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act”. Set an example for what it means “to understand one another” by not alienating non-believers with a “Day of Prayer”. Do these and show that CHANGE is not beyond our control.