A recently circulated General Assembly resolution would designate March 23 as National Atheist Day in Delaware.
Sponsored by Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow and Sen. Laura Sturgeon, D-Hockessin, the resolution doesn’t yet have a bill number.
Efforts were not successful to reach Morrison for comment.
Sturgeon said she grew up and remains Catholic, but believes in philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, which he describes as a person having trust in something despite the lack of logic, reason and rationality.
The resolution will be an interesting litmus test for the Christian politicians in the legislature, she said.
“It’ll be really interesting to see how the openly Christian elected officials, the ones that I’m familiar with more in my chamber in the Senate … respond to this resolution,” Sturgeon said. “And I think how they respond to the resolution will again give insight into why a resolution like this is an important conversation starter…if they’re reluctant, then again it only underscores why the resolution is needed.”
There’s no reason legislators should refuse to pass this resolution, she said. The legislature has no problem having a prayer said and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before each session.
“Almost 95% of the time it is a Christian prayer. It’s overtly a Christian prayer,” Sturgeon said. “And nobody balks, and everybody is supportive and everybody bows their head and most, as far as I can tell, say amen at the end. … It seems rather stingy for anyone to have a problem supporting one day to honor the many good and loving atheists in the world.”
The proclamation talks about the number of people in the U.S. and across the world that identify as non-religious, lists dozens of famous people that are either atheists or agnostic, and mentions how underrepresented atheists are in elected office.
In a 2014 Pew Research Center religious landscape study, the resolution says, 69% of Delawareans identified as Christian, 6% as non-Christians, and 23% as unaffiliated, with 2% as atheists.
Delaware’s previous Gov. Jack Markell signed proclamations declaring May 7, 2015 and May 5, 2016 as the Day of Reason for their respective years. Those programs were a counterpoint to the National Day of Prayer held on the same day.
Support for Atheist Day
Mike Brickner, the executive director of the Delaware ACLU, said they support the proclamation because it allows for more people in Delaware to be seen by their government.
“I think that there are certainly days that celebrate or honor occasions that are important for a whole host of world religions,” Brickner said. “And I think having a day that recognizes individuals who have decided that they are atheists, that they don’t believe in god is just another way to recognize more people’s beliefs.”
Brickner said the day could have an impact on people.
“Even though it may not be a big policy change, still having a day that I think celebrates those individuals and makes them feel included and seen, I think that can still be important for that person,” Brickner said.
Morrison also is sponsoring House Bill 74 that would require Catholic priests to break the traditional sanctity of the confession booth and tell police if they hear anything related to child abuse. Priests would also be required to testify in court.
The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington adamantly opposes the bill.
Sturgeon is not a sponsor of that bill.
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