Foundation Pursues Congressional Prayer Following a rebuff by Wisconsin Senator Herbert Ko

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Foundation Pursues Congressional Prayer Following a rebuff by Wisconsin Senator Herbert Kohl, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has requested that new Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold sponsor Dan Barker to present a "freethought homily" before the U.S. Senate. "To our knowledge, in the last two centuries no freethinker has ever been granted these two minutes to address the U.S. Senate or House," the Foundation wrote Feingold. The Foundation pointed out that censorship of freethought and other views has been entrenched. In 1854, for instance, outspoken critic of religion Ernestine Rose was denied the opportunity to speak at the Capitol on a Sunday morning. In attempting to reserve that space for her friend, suffragist Susan B. Anthony was told that she had to receive permission from Mr. Milburn the chaplain. In her diary, Anthony recorded this censorship: "He would not allow her to speak there because she was not a member of some religious society. I remarked to him that ours was a country professing Religious as well as Civil Liberty and not to allow any and every faith to be declared in the Capitol of the nation, made the profession to religious freedom a perfect mockery." In quoting the words of Susan B. Anthony to Sen. Feingold, the Foundation noted: "Your sponsorship of Dan Barker would rectify two centuries of censorship." In correspondence with Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson, the Foundation was told that guest invocations must be made at the behest of a Senator sponsoring someone from his or her home state. Senate rules require that the speaker be an ordained minister. Although an atheist today, former minister Dan Barker still has a valid ordination. In 1991, a Muslim cleric was sponsored before the U.S. House, although he was given a 7:30 a.m. spot when the House was deserted. The Foundation has protested the chaplaincy as an unconstitutional Christian sinecure, in violation of the constitutional provision forbidding religious tests for public office. The Foundation has also suggested that abolishing the two Congressional Chaplain offices and all other federally-funded chaplaincies would not only help save taxpayers money, but would correct a long-standing state/church violation. ---------------------------------------------------------- This article is reprinted (with permission) from the May 1993 issue of Freethought Today, bulletin of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. For more information, write or call Freedom From Religion Foundation P. O. Box 750 Madison, WI 53701 USA (608) 256-8900 -------------------------------------------------------

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