The Freedom From Religion Foundation is discrediting the recklessness of Texas officials asking for prayers in the wake of Hurricane Harvey while declining legitimate aid.
In response to the catastrophe that has devastated Houston, Quebec’s Minister of International Relations Christine St-Pierre offered practical help: to send bedding, hygienic supplies and electrical equipment and crews to help the flooded city. Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos reportedly declined the aid, and asked, instead, for prayers!
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott likewise declared this upcoming Sunday to be a “day of prayer” for the state. According to media coverage, Abbott said that Texans will pray for people affected by the disaster and for those who helped. Reliance on superstition will not help the people of Texas.
As FFRF’s principal founder, Anne Nicol Gaylor put it: “Nothing fails like prayer.” It is irresponsible for Pablos to reject actual offers of assistance, and for Abbott to use his office to endorse prayer.
If prayer comforts religious people, by all means, they are free to pray. But, as President Thomas Jefferson noted in a Jan. 23, 1808, letter to Rev. Samuel Miller, it is beyond the scope of the executive branch to prescribe or even simply to recommend prayer. “Civil powers alone have been given to the president of the United States and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.” The govenor of Texas is doing precisely what the founding father and president precluded.
“The universe is full of unanswered prayers, the cemeteries are full of people who prayed to live,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Wishful thinking cannot suspend the natural laws of the universe.”
The storm — which dumped an estimated 50 inches of water on Houston, resulted in at least 38 deaths and reportedly damaged 100,000 houses in Texas and Louisiana — will perhaps be the most expensive disaster in national history. As the 19th century’s most famous freethinker, Robert Green Ingersoll put it, “The hands that help are better far than lips that pray.” That’s why Nonbelief Relief, a humanitarian charity created by the executive board of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, did not pray, but gave $10,000 to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nonprofit membership organization that advocates for the separation of church and state and educates on matters relating to nontheism. It has more than 29,000 members, residing in every state of the United States including upwards of 1,200 in Texas.