FFRF is not blessing S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster’s imposition of prayers at official events.
Concerned South Carolina residents contacted FFRF about two such instances. At a Sept. 13 news conference about the government’s response to Hurricane Florence, McMaster invited South Carolina National Guard Captain/Chaplain John Denny to begin the press conference with a prayer. Denny was again asked on Sept. 16 to deliver a prayer before a press conference about the progress of Hurricane Florence.
“The decision to deliver a prayer at an official state news conference sends an unfortunate official message of endorsement of religion over nonreligion by the highest executive office in the state — a message that inevitably excludes many of your constituents, and has a proselytizing intent,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to McMaster. “Asking Denny, a Christian chaplain, to preside over the prayer also signals an official message of endorsement of Christianity, thereby excluding followers of minority religions.”
Nonreligious Americans make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification — more than one in five Americans now identifies as nonreligious, FFRF emphasizes. Beginning a televised gubernatorial news conference with a prayer signals to this sizeable minority “that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community,” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.