Redding's National Day of Prayer Protest
May 3, 2020
California State Director of American Atheists
When I last attended a National Day of Prayer protest in Redding, the grassy
amphitheater of the Convention Center seemed to be filled with people who had
come to celebrate. This year, the crowd was less than half that size, around
100, although the participants were just as enthusiastic.
Local government officials were still present to endorse the NDOP. While the
City of Redding claimed no connection to the event (although the mayor and
county sheriff are proudly sponsoring a prayer breakfast the following
morning), speakers included Shasta County Supervisor Molly Wilson, a state
assemblyman, and Sheriff Jim Pope.
Fifteen Atheists gathered across the roadway to protest the government's
involvement. Participants included members from both American Atheists and
the local group Shasta Atheists and Other Freethinkers. The protesters were a
diverse group, with first-time participants as young as age 7 and experienced
veterans as venerable as 84.
We were greeted by a member of the Christian Motorcycle Association. The CMA
had been hired as security for the event. He approached our group by offering
us candy suckers (unknowingly ironic), and then engaged us in general, polite
conversation. The other prayer participants primarily kept their distance
during the ceremony, although a few approached us cautiously. It was only
afterwards--perhaps fortified by their prayers--when others finally crossed
the road to talk to us and ask questions. As others left, they passed by our
group saying that they would pray for us.
Press coverage included a few reporters from the local papers and two radio
stations. KVIP Radio broadcast the ceremony live. Some reporters interviewed
members of our group, including our youngest protesters.
While this particular National Day of Prayer event was relatively subdued,
its purpose was nevertheless still insidious: to stage a religious ceremony
on public property with the support and endorsement of the government.
© 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.