Beginning in 2015, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced a formal resolution in support of the National Day of Reason. His defeat in 2016, despite coming at the hands of another Democrat, put future versions of that legislation in peril. But fellow Californian Rep. Ted Lieu picked up where Honda left off, introducing similar legislation in 2017. In 2018. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), now the only openly non-theistic legislator in Congress as well as chair of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, introduced the resolution. In 2019, his CFC co-chair Rep. Jamie Raskin did the honors.
And now, once again, Raskin (below) has introduced H. Res. 947, designating May 7 as the “National Day of Reason,” with the goal of recognizing the “importance of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to resolving social problems and promoting the welfare of humankind.”
May 7 also happens to coincide with the National Day of Prayer. That’s not a coincidence.
The text of the resolution is fairly short but it’s packed with quotable bits. It also includes a new paragraph calling out how “irrationality, magical thinking, and superstition have undermined the national effort to combat the COVID–19 pandemic”:
Expressing support for the designation of May 7, 2020, as a “National Day of Reason” and recognizing the central importance of reason in the betterment of humanity.
Whereas the application of reason has been the essential precondition for humanity’s extraordinary scientific, medical, technological, and social progress since the modern Enlightenment;
Whereas reason provides vital hope today for confronting the environmental crises of our day, including the civilizational emergency of climate change, and for cultivating the rule of law, democratic institutions, justice, and peace among nations;
Whereas irrationality, magical thinking, and superstition have undermined the national effort to combat the COVID–19 pandemic, and reason is fundamental to creating an effective coordinated response to beat the virus involving the Federal Government, the States, and the scientific and medical communities;
Whereas America’s Founders insisted upon the primacy of reason and knowledge in public life, and drafted the Constitution to prevent official establishment of religion and to protect freedom of thought, speech, and inquiry in civil society;
Whereas James Madison, author of the First Amendment and fourth President of the United States, stated that “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty”, and “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives”; and
Whereas, May 7, 2020, would be an appropriate date to designate as a “National Day of Reason”: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) supports the designation of a “National Day of Reason”; and
(2) encourages all citizens, residents, and visitors to join in observing this day and focusing on the central importance of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to resolving social problems and promoting the welfare of humankind.
The American Humanist Association deserves the credit for making this happen.
The National Day of Reason promotes public awareness of science, logic, and reason. While a National Day of Prayer is recognized annually by a presidential proclamation encouraging Americans to pray, it overlooks the millions of Americans who don’t pray, but wish to recognize and celebrate our shared American values. Today’s resolution offers an inclusive alternate to the National Day of Prayer that Americans of all faiths and philosophies can celebrate.
“With the ongoing pandemic, this resolution comes at a time where science and reason ought to be our guiding lights.” AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt asserted. “However, some of our leaders are looking to anything except reason to get us through the pandemic. The resolution introduced by Rep. Raskin bolsters our government’s religiously neutral nature during this pivotal moment in American history.”
This resolution is currently co-sponsored by Rep. Huffman, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). All of them are members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus.
You might argue that this resolution is a purely symbolic gesture. That’s true, but so is the Day of Prayer. And if there’s one thing we need a lot more of in Washington right now, it’s reason. Plus, this sort of resolution is a nice reminder that there are some legislators who take evidence and rational thinking seriously. Be sure you’re supporting them in November as well.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)