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California National Day Of Prayer Protest Report

by Dave Kong
California State Director

On May 6, American Atheists members staged two simultaneous demonstrations against official recognition of the National Day of Prayer in the California cities of Redding and San Jose. In total, 26 Atheists came out to object to the government endorsement of prayer by these cities, including official proclamations, free use of Redding Convention Center facilities, and participation of public officials such as the Shasta County sheriff and mayor of San Jose.

The Shasta Atheists and Freethinkers, an affiliated group, has protested against the National Day of Prayer for several years in Redding. This year, they were joined by American Atheists members from as far away as San Francisco. With 19 participants, this year's protest was more than twice the size of last year's protest, while the number of people who came out to celebrate the NDOP remained the same (approximately 200).

The City of San Jose has issued proclamations honoring the NDOP for several years, but this was the first time there was organized opposition to the event. American Atheists member John Messina had objected to official recognition of the NDOP in the past. This year, he was joined by other members from San Jose and the Bay Area.

Both demonstrations were peaceful and without incident. Protesters were not bothered by the police, and those who objected to their presence were civil. A few prayer supporters engaged the demonstrators in debates or discussions. One official in Redding, unable to ignore the protesters, asked those praying to remember the Atheists across the street.

In response to our press release, the media interviewed a number of participants in both cities. In Redding, radio and TV stations acknowledged that American Atheists had protested, and the Sacramento Valley Mirror ran an article and photos. In San Jose, the Mercury News published a photo of John Messina wearing his Uncle Sam outfit and carrying a sign which read "separate church and state."

American Atheists thanks the Shasta Atheists and Freethinkers in Redding and John Messina in San Jose for helping to organize these protests. This was our first attempt to hold simultaneous demonstrations in California, and it was very successful thanks to their hard work and preparation, as well as the efforts of all participants. In the future, should the need arise, we would like to stage more concurrent protests in even more cities. California Atheists are ready to stand up and be counted!

(see pictures from the protest in San Jose)

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