Lawmakers urged not to join Prayer Caucus

Thursday, December 6, 2012
Russ Jones (

The founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus says an atheist group is attempting to censor the newest members of Congress from voicing their support for prayer by joining the Caucus.

Newly elected members of Congress have received a letter from the American Humanist Association warning them not to join the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, wrote in the letter: "Incoming House members should know that approximately one in five of their constituents are not religiously affiliated, and even more insist on maintaining the wall of separation between church and state."

Speckhardt also argues in the letter that when public officials and Congress explicitly endorse public prayer, "they alienate millions of non-religious Americans who oppose the joining of religion and government."

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120612Congressman Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) founded the Congressional Prayer Caucus in 2005. He says it is his understanding that this is the first time a group has attempted to keep someone from joining a caucus.

Forbes, Randy (R-VA)"What these extremist groups are fighting for - and they've got a lot of dollars and they're well orchestrated - is they want to make certain that no one in government can even mention God or faith or religion, and no one in the church can mention anything about government," the Republican lawmaker explains. "That is far from what the First Amendment was written to protect."

Forbes says the letter highlighted the group's opposition to "In God We Trust" as the national motto and how the Caucus champions prayer to begin sessions of Congress. "They have a well-orchestrated attack, and now we've got these groups trying to censor and silence people by saying We don't even want you to join a caucus where you might get information about all these religious tacks that are going on."

The Congressional Prayer Caucus has more than 100 members and has widespread bipartisan support. It gathers weekly for prayer in room 217, just off the House floor in the U.S. Capitol. Forbes currently co-chairs the Caucus along with Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-North Carolina).

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