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Word about our nation’s founding principle of church/state separation still hasn’t made it to Sumter, South Carolina, where the city has officially declared today as a “Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer” hosted — that’s their word — by Mayor Joseph T. McElveen, Jr.

We ask all churches and people of faith to lift up prayers for God’s protection over our community that we will have few infections and that those infected will survive and be restored to health. Thank you and may God continue to bless our Sumter community.

For what it’s worth, any God who sends COVID-19 isn’t about to heal people affected by it. But more importantly, why is a city using Christianity as a tool for attempted unity?

And Christianity, not religion in general, is what they’re promoting. The city also issued a formal proclamation regarding the day of prayer that includes direct references to the Bible.

WHEREAS, the Sumter Community is a community where a great majority of citizens are men and women of faith and faith instructs their lives; and

WHEREAS, Sumter is a community whose citizens understand the importance of prayer as a source of guidance and healing, and a way to show gratitude and love for a merciful and omnipotent Creator; and

WHEREAS, when challenges arise in our lives, we in Sumter know that this is a time for more focused and plaintive prayer, and that individual and community prayers are needed to overcome such challenges; and

WHEREAS, we in Sumter will not be satisfied simply to pray for protection and deliverance from our challenges, realizing that “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17), and that prayer can lead us to do works that turn our challenges into opportunities to display the heart of our faith; and

WHEREAS, Sumter, South Carolina, as well as our country and most of our world, are presently faced with a pandemic as a result of the virus known as Covid-19, and

WHEREAS, despite the threat of catastrophe that is possible with the spread of Covid-l9, citizens in Sumter know that we have been blessed beyond expectation and certainly beyond our merit; and

WHEREAS, numerous churches of Sumter, through their pastors, the Mayor‘s Prayer Breakfast Committee, and other faith groups, believe that Sumter should have a special community-wide day of thanksgiving and prayer in Sumter.


Thursday, March 19, 2020, be proclaimed to be a special Community-wide Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer in Sumter, during which time all churches and people of faith are asked to lift up prayers thanking God for his many mercies and blessings, and to ask for deliverance from the threat of Covid-19 and the consequences that can arise from mass infection. In proclaiming the Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, I am confident that our religious leaders will develop ways to implement this Community Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer effectively within the guidelines for assembly promulgated by relevant state and federal agencies. These leaders have asked that I suggest that our citizens:

  • Pray for God’s protection over our community, that we will have few infections, and that those infected will survive and be restored to health;
  • Pray for healing for those who may be infected;
  • Pray for wisdom for our local leaders and leaders at all levels;
  • Pray for protection over front line providers at hospitals, doctor‘s offices, and nursing homes;
  • Pray for protection over first responders, such as emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers and firefighters;
  • Pray for those most vulnerable to the virus, that they be spared;
  • Pray that people in Sumter will find ways to show their faith by serving those in need; and
  • Pray that the peace of God, “the peace that passes all understanding,” (Philippians 4:7) calms every heart in Sumter.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that all members of the Sumter Community be encouraged to
continue in prayer
during the duration of this crisis;

AND BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that when this crisis has passed, the members of the Sumter Faith Community will give thanks to our Creator for hearing our prayers, meeting our needs, and will continue to serve the “least of these” and “love our neighbors as ourselves.”


Well, the prayer for wisdom already failed.

It’s not just a generic proclamation. This is the sort of proclamation you could only get when the local government decides Jews and atheists and Muslims are expendable. Their views don’t get considered because Christians outnumber them. Even that sentence near the end says they want “all members of the Sumter Community… to continue in prayer,” not just the Christians.

Meanwhile, none of this will actually do anything to fight or prevent the virus. It’s a distraction. It’s shoving religion into a situation where it’s not needed, certainly not by the government.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been notified.

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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