Coalition of Religious and Secular Groups: No Prayer at WWII Memorial

May 20, 2014

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) joined eight leading religious and secularist groups this week in urging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to reject a problematic bill that would add a prayer plaque to the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

Earlier today, the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation hosted a hearing on H.R. 2715, which would “direct the Secretary of the Interior to install in the area of the World War II Memorial in the District of Columbia a suitable plaque or an inscription with the words that President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed with the United States on June 6, 1944, the morning of D-Day.”

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have submitted variations of the legislation since 2011; having once been approved by the full House of Representatives, but never passed by the full Senate. CFI has partnered with groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union to oppose this legislation each time it has been considered by a Congressional body. For instance, this past fall we collectively sent a letter opposing the Senate companion bill, S. 1044, when it came up in committee, where it remains.

In our letter regarding H.R. 2175, sent to subcommittee chair Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and ranking member Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), we write that:

Religious freedom is a fundamental and defining feature of our national character. Given our robust, longstanding commitment to the freedom of religion and belief, it is no surprise that the United States is among the most religious, and religiously diverse, nations in the world. Our religious diversity is one of our nation’s great strengths.

This bill, however, shows a lack of respect for this great diversity. It endorses the false notion that all veterans will be honored by a war memorial that includes a prayer that proponents characterize as reflecting our country’s “Judeo-Christian heritage and values.” In fact, Department of Defense reports show that nearly one-third of all current members of the U.S. Armed Forces identify as non-Christian. Likewise, many of our veterans and citizens come from a variety of religious backgrounds, or have no religious belief; thus, it is inappropriate to honor the “power of prayer” in a national memorial.

Other groups joining us in fighting this legislation include the American Jewish Committee, Hindu American Foundation, Interfaith Alliance, National Council of Jewish Women, and the United Methodist Church. 

You can download the full letter here.