MN Atheists Stand United for 8th Annual Day of Reason
By Jack Caravela
Since 2006, Minnesota Atheists members and supporters have gathered at the state capitol building on the first Thursday in May to celebrate the annual Day of Reason. Begun as a response to the federal and state supported Day of Prayer, an annual abuse of the U.S. Constitution that was officially endorsed this year through proclamations by both Governor Dayton and President Obama, we have been proud to assemble in the Rotunda while those who seek to perpetuate the myth of America as a nation founded on religious beliefs congregate outside.
This year’s theme was One Nation Indivisible, declaring that government should respect all points of view and not endorse one sectarian belief system over any others. When an Act of Congress in 1954 inserted the words “under god” into the Pledge of Allegiance, it reflected the tyranny of the religious majority over the non-religious minority. This year we honored our secular Constitution and secular veterans who took an oath to protect it.
Speakers included emcees George Kane and Heather Hegi, both members of Minnesota Atheists’ Board of Directors, MNA President Eric Jayne, Scott Lohman, President of the Humanists of Minnesota, David Pacheco, President of the Minnesota Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, MNA member James Barri reading a speech by former MNA Chair Grant Steves, and Hiero Russell, past President of the Humanists of Minnesota and a former Marine. We were also welcomed by Minnesota House Representative Phyllis Kahn (DFL) and State Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R), who each addressed our group from the podium under our Minnesota Atheists banner.
The keynote was delivered by Blake Page, Director of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Affairs at West Point and Special Assistant to the President of that organization. Mr. Page is a former West Point cadet who was compelled to resign by the pervasive Christian fundamentalist presence at that Military Academy. Despite having led the charge in fighting for (and winning) secular, non-religious alternatives to previously compulsory prayer ceremonies, he ultimately could not tolerate the open disrespect and abuse of non-religious cadets shown by the faculty and administration. As part of his stirring speech, Blake read a letter he had composed to President Obama, calling on him to take action against the pervasive prejudice, bigotry, and civil rights abuses suffered by non-religious members of the military. Mr. Page’s address received a well-deserved standing ovation.
It has been rewarding to see how our numbers have grown each year, a trend noted by Representative Kahn. With the increasing support of our members and friends, we may soon see our supporters outnumber those on the Capitol lawn. More rewarding still would be an end to the unconstitutional government endorsement of the Day of Prayer, but until we see that day we will be standing strong every first Thursday of May at the State Capitol.