Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told reporters at the White House that he is praying for rain to end the drought parching 61 percent of the United States. "I get on my knees every day," he said on July 18. "And I'm saying an extra prayer now. If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it."
"The Obama Administration has been criticized by secular humanists for backpedaling on then-candidate Obama's campaign pledge to reverse Bush-era policies that provide federal funding to religious charities that discriminate in hiring," said Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and editor of its journal Free Inquiry. "But praying for rain? That's not just government entangling itself with religion, that's government publicly practicing it, and wallowing in superstition."
This summer's prolonged drought, the worst in a quarter-century, is devastating crops and parching livestock. It may bring sharply higher food prices later this year.
"It sends the wrong message to distraught farmers when the Agriculture Secretary suggests that the best response is to pray," said Flynn. "For a Cabinet official to recommend prayer as a solution or call attention to his own devotions may violate the Constitution's prohibition against establishment of religion. Most important, though, is that prayer doesn't work. But if you want to test the power of prayer yourself, consider this. Apparently Secretary Vilsack's been praying for rain every day; how's that working out?"
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The Council for Secular Humanism—housed at the Center for Inquiry—is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization promoting rational inquiry, secular values, and positive human development through the advancement of secular humanism. The Council, publisher of the bimonthly journal Free Inquiry, has a website at www.secularhumanism.org.
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization based in Amherst, New York; it is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.