Atheists blast DCF chief for ‘proselytizing’ to agency workersby Dara Kam | May 4th, 2012
Atheists are accusing Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins of breaking the law with a prayer he sent to the agency’s workers yesterday asking God to help his workers “find their identity in You.”
Wilkins, a Baptist who is also the Florida’s chief operating officer, sent the missive to DCF workers yesterday after offering the prayer at a National Day of Prayer event – also attended by his boss, Gov. Rick Scott – in the Capitol.
“This message from a Department head to all subordinates is shocking and unconstitutional,” Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote in a letter to Scott and Wilkins’ general counsel yesterday. “The message gives the appearance of government endorsement of Christianity. Civil servants should not be subject to such ridiculous calls to religion in the workplace.”
Wilkins’ prayer refers to the Old Testament without mentioning Jesus Christ and basically asks God to protect the state’s children and families and help them to be better people.
“Help them to grow into a complete understanding of their authority in You, Lord, while retaining a submissive and humble spirit. We pray that the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control grow in them daily. We pray that they find their identity in You and view themselves as Your instrument, and that they will know that they are fully complete in You, and You alone,” part of his prayer reads.
The memo is part of an “ongoing dialogue the Secretary has with employees” to share information about his public appearances and agency activities, Wilkins’ spokesman Joe Follick said.
“Neither this message or any of the Secretary’s daily actions on behalf of the agency’s 13,000 employees and providers ever carry any attempt to impact every American’s right to believe and follow their faith of choice.
We are proud to have the nation’s best social services team working to improve this state and are proud that among our employees are men and women of all faiths,” Follick said.
But sending the prayer to employees is unconstitutional because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibiting government sponsorship of religious messages, Gaylor argued.
“Government officials may of course attend private functions on their own time as private citizens. It is a misuse of office, however, for government actors to use their position to disseminate their religious messages spawned by the National Day of Prayer. A state department head may not use state resources to promote such a sectarian message,” Gaylor wrote. “Governor, you have taken the oath of office to uphold the secular U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Florida, and you must ensure that your office and public officials under your oversight do not abuse their position to further their personal religious beliefs.”
Read Wilkins’ entire prayer after the jump.
We thank You for this beautiful Lord’s day! It is a celebration to be able to come together to pray to you, Our Sovereign God, for the children and families in our great state of Florida. We come to you today with complete reverence for all that You are, Lord, and we thank You that You are sovereign over all of Your creation.
Lord, We pray that You will pour out Your Spirit upon the children and families in this state. We pray that You will deliver them from any evil that would rob them of their lives, that would steal away their uniqueness and giftedness or compromise the path that you’ve called them to walk, or to destroy the person that You created them to be. May they not be a follower of anyone but You, Lord, but may they be a leader of people into Your kingdom.
Help them to grow into a complete understanding of their authority in You, Lord, while retaining a submissive and humble spirit. We pray that the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control grow in them daily. We pray that they find their identity in You and view themselves as Your instrument, and that they will know that they are fully complete in You, and You alone.
In Jeremiah, You tell us that You know the plans You have for us…plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future. We pray that our young people will see themselves as You do–from their future and NOT from their past. Help them be convinced that Your thoughts toward them are thoughts of peace and not of evil, and that You will give them a future and a hope. Teach them to look to You as their hope FOR the future. Help them to understand that it is You who has saved us and has called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to Your purpose. We pray that their commitment to being who You created them to be, enable them to grow daily in confidence and boldness.
You created each one of your precious children uniquely different….each perfect with the talents and abilities to do Your will here on Earth. We pray that You will develop those talents and abilities, so that they can be used for Your glory. We pray as they recognize that they are uniquely different from anyone else that You have created, that no feelings of inadequacy, fear, or uncertainty will keep them from following You and being willing to be used for Your purposes. May they hear the call You have on their lives so that they do not spend their lives living in a state of confusion, trying to figure out what it is that You would have them do with their lives.
Let their talent never be wasted, watered down by mediocrity, or used to glorify anything or anyone other than You, Lord. We pray that You will reveal to them what their life work is to be and help them excel in it. Bless the work of their hands, and help them see that they can be used to help others.
In Proverbs, You tell us that, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” We pray that whatever our precious children do, that it will find favor with You and with others and it will be well received and well respected. We pray that the gifts and talents that You have placed in them be released to find their fullest expression in glorifying You.
We know that You are the One that oversees all that we do and we thank You that You are with us in serving the children and families and ask for a special blessing for the most vulnerable. We ask You to lead us, to guide us, and to direct our paths as we do Your will and we will give You all of the glory and praise!
Forgive us of our sins, Lord.
In Your name, Amen”