A lot of mayors and governors have signed “Day of Reason” proclamations over the years. And why not? Even though many of them were written as responses to the (Christian) Day of Prayer, it’s not like they’re pro-atheism. Promoting reason shouldn’t be a controversial move and these proclamations are purely symbolic. Government officials should just sign them and move on. There’s no good excuse for saying no to them.
Good luck telling that to the Mayor and City Council members in Independence, Iowa, where multiple request for a Day of Reason proclamation have gone unanswered for over a month.
Last night, however, two members of the Eastern Iowa Atheists attended a City Council meeting and asked the members point blank why they refused to issue the proclamation.
Here’s Jessie, the woman speaking at the podium:
My husband Tyler and I have been residents of Independence for two years in July. On March 8 of this year, I sent Mayor Davis an email requesting a proclamation declaring May 4, 2017 as the Day of Reason for the city, as well as an explanation of the importance of such a proclamation.
I know that at least two other residents of Independence, as well as the Eastern Iowa Atheists group, have sent similar requests around the same time. To my knowledge, none of the requests have received a response. I am here tonight to make that request again.
Just look at the response from Mayor Bonita Davis and council member Dennis Vaughn at that point, around the 0:34 mark. They look disgusted, as if they can’t believe anyone is making such a ludicrous request. Not surprisingly, they say they’re not honoring the request at this time. They don’t even dignify that with an explanation.
So Jessie continued, pointing out the hypocrisy of a city rejecting the proclamation when its website speaks about the importance of growth and being “on the move,” qualities that suggest a commitment to inclusivity. Since this proclamation is often made on behalf of non-Christians, this would be a simple way to honor that commitment.
Council member Michael Lenius then asks out loud what the proclamation is even about. (Clearly, he didn’t see the emails which included the text.) It’s almost entertaining to hear him ask that question — and then hear him say he doesn’t get it even after Jessie explains everything — because it’s like he doesn’t understand what “reason” is.
He eventually says he’ll Google it when he gets home, before asking if the proclamation promotes atheism. It doesn’t.
I’m purely speculating here, but by the end of their exchange, Lenius is looking around the room like he doesn’t get why there’s any opposition to this. Why isn’t the Mayor saying yes? Why aren’t the other council members saying anything? It seems completely harmless to him.
But he doesn’t press the issue. So the council moves on to another topic.
For what it’s worth, Mayor Davis has approved other proclamations in the past, including ones with a religious theme, according to Eastern Iowa Atheists Director Justin Scott.
There’s no principled reason to oppose the Day of Reason. But instead of offering an explanation, the Mayor said nothing.
Her reaction is the very opposite of a reasoned response.
If you’d like to ask the council members about this yourself, their public emails are right here. Don’t be rude. But since there’s confusion over the issue, they could stand to learn what “reason” means.