Atheists plan Nevada chapter to halt prayers

CARSON CITY – An organization that represents atheists is starting a Nevada chapter that will lobby legislators against holding the sectarian prayers that open each legislative session.

“The prayers exclude people who don’t believe in prayer or don’t believe in a higher being from full participation,” said Lauren Anderson Youngblood, communications director of the Secular Coalition of America in Washington, D.C.

The organization also opposes laws that infringe on the separation of church and state. Youngblood said some laws give special benefits to religious-based day care centers, which in some states don’t have to meet the same health care standards as nonreligious centers.

Because of complaints from non-Christian legislators about too many ministers opening sessions with prayers referring to Jesus Christ, legislative leaders several years ago requested more inclusive prayers.

Now prayers are made by people from many religions, including American Indian leaders in their native languages. But frequently, Christian ministers still mention Jesus Christ.

Besides atheists, the Secular Coalition is open to agnostics, humanists and anyone who supports the separation of church and state. Twenty states have chapters.

Youngblood said she hopes Nevadans will join a conference call at 1 p.m. Wednesday to discuss creating a chapter and training as a lobbyist. The call-in number is 530-881-1400, and the participant code is 978895.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.

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