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Last month, the mayor of Kissimmee, Florida, José Alvarez, signed a decree declaring 40 days of prayer and fasting in the city.

The proclamation itself toed the line of legality. It didn’t endorse God or religion, and it didn’t mention “fasting.” But it implied that meeting for an hour every morning for 40 days — in a government-sponsored way — would somehow solve the problems government is supposed to be fixing. It was both religious in spirit and just plain silly. (The city later apologized for suggesting they were promoting the religious event.)

But since the city was obviously open to signing anything, atheists decided to play along. They called on local officials to honor the work of the Central Florida Freethought Community, ACLU of Florida, and ACLU of Central Florida. You know, groups that worked to keep church and state separate.

Perhaps realizing the controversy they would create by saying no, the city commission agreed to do it. The celebration of First Amendment defenders took place Tuesday night:

YouTube video

“We are thrilled to have an opportunity to work with our parent organization the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the ACLU of Florida and Central Florida to highlight the concerns expressed by the residents of Kissimmee,” said CFFC Director David Williamson. “If the citizens are to have freedom OF religion, their government must be free FROM religion.”

I feel like that honor undoes at least 30 of the days those other people fasted.

Let’s hope the city commission learned a lesson: If you promote ridiculous religious events, atheists will call you out on it. And they’ll keep doing it until you remember that you’re in office and have an obligation to respect the Constitution.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.

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