Atheists have issued a stern warning to Republican Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, claiming that his support for a Bible-reading marathon set to unfold later this month "violates the First Amendment and the rights of non-Christian Iowans."
Activists with the American Humanist Association, among others, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, are frustrated over Branstad's decision to issue a proclamation back in April that encouraged citizen participation in the Iowa 99 County Bible Reading Marathon, a beloved historic event in the state.
"The governor’s endorsement of the Bible violates our nation’s founding principle of the separation of religion and government," Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the organization, said in a statement. "In exalting Christianity above all other religious and nonreligious worldviews, the governor is discriminating against non-Christian citizens and infringing upon their right to be free from religious coercion by the state."
In a letter addressed to Branstad, the organization encouraged the governor not to promote Christianity and scripture in the future.
"The proclamation, which contains statements such as the declaration that 'all Scripture is essential to prepare us to be the people God wants us to be,' as well as a number of historical claims that are biased and inaccurate, is an outrageous violation of church-state separation," the letter reads.
It continues, "Your divisive proclamation can only be understood as pandering to a certain religious demographic while offending those who hold differing religious views."
Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor also spoke out in an interview with the Des Moines Register, saying that "the government is supposed to be neutral toward religion."
Gaylor added, "Can you imagine the uproar if the governor used state resources to encourage people to go to a ‘God is Dead’ rally or a vigil to review how divisive religion is? Everyone can see how inappropriate that would be. This is exactly the same type of violation."
The governor's proclamation, which you can read here, was signed on April 26; it encourages Iowans to reacquaint themselves with the Bible, stating that the nation was built on "biblical principles and Judeo-Christian ethics." It also goes on to say that the "Bible is recognized as the one true revelation from God, showing the way of Salvation, Truth and Life."
The Iowa 99 County Bible Reading Marathon is a historic event that will unfold from June 30 to July 3 during which Bible reading will unfold in front of all of the state's courthouses.
Atheists maintain that the governor's endorsement is improper.
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