Stitt’s day of prayer draws objections

Mike Seals - December 3, 2020 11:09 am

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt is being asked to rescind his call for a day of prayer and fasting on Thursday for those impacted by COVID-19.

In a Tuesday letter to Stitt, the Freedom from Religion Foundation said the governor should not use his office and state resources to promote his personal religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, a senior minister from Tulsa’s All Souls Unitarian Church took the governor to task for calling for prayer instead of enacting a mask mandate.

Stitt on Monday issued a proclamation asking Oklahomans of all faiths and backgrounds to join him in prayer and fasting for those impacted by COVID-19. He proclaimed Thursday as an “Oklahoma Day of Prayer and Fasting.”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation asked the governor to refrain from ineffective and exclusionary proclamations and asked him to take meaningful actions.

“Using state resources and the power of your office to ask citizens to pray and fast is a misuse of your civil and secular authority,” the group’s letter said. “Instead you should be instructing Oklahomans to stay at home, engage in social distancing, wear masks and take other recommended precautions.”

Stitt has urged Oklahomans to socially distance, wash their hands and wear masks.
“It is more than ironic that as head executive of your state you misguidedly feel you have the right in our secular nation to direct citizens to ‘unite in prayer’ over the pandemic, yet eschew directing them to follow science by taking basic secular precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, co-presidents of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

A spokeswoman for Stitt reiterated the governor’s call for state residents to join him in prayer and fasting on Thursday for those impacted by COVID-19.

“Oklahomans have always rallied around community, prayer and faith during trials and seasons of uncertainty,” said Baylee Lakey, a Stitt spokeswoman. “While an out-of-state organization works to diminish the religious viewpoints held by Oklahomans, our leaders and frontline workers continue to fight this historic pandemic and support our people.”

The Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar, a senior minister at All Souls Unitarian, said he believes in the importance of prayer but also in taking action.

“America is facing the largest health crisis in living history and there is overwhelming evidence that wearing masks saves lives,” Lavanhar said in a statement provided to the Tulsa World. “I will be praying that the governor has the good sense to finally listen to the scientists and enact a mask mandate in our state.”

 

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