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)
© 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.