News Post

Across nation, nonreligious Americans put values into action through community service

02 May 2019

by Secular Coalition for America


fruitMinnesota Atheists pack meals at Second Harvest Heartland in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

Secular Americans want to make clear that we value actions over words. We have the muddy boots, packed meals, and stuffed trash bags to prove it. —Debbie Allen, Secular Coalition for America

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 2, 2019)  – In the week leading up to the National Day of Prayer, nonreligious Americans have dedicated thousands of hours to community service as part of the Secular Week of Action.

Led by the Secular Coalition for America, their 19 member organizations, and nearly 100 partners across the nation participated in service events in locations including Alaska, California, Nebraska, Georgia, and Long Island. Actions included road, river, and park cleanups, efforts to support the homeless and children in foster care, fundraisers, communication to elected officials, and more.


Secular Student Alliance students at USC, along with humanist chaplain, Ryan Bell, participated in the annual LA River Clean Up put on by Friends of the Los Angeles River. 

“The Week of Action is about showing our neighbors that secular values are American values,” said Debbie Allen, Acting Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “Through The National Day of Prayer, our government inappropriately encourages citizens to adopt faith, effectively elevating believers above nonbelievers in our national culture. It is critical, especially today, that we demonstrate the positive impact the nonreligious community has on society and continue to reinforce the secular character of our government as defined by the Constitution.”

The National Day of Prayer, which asks Americans to “turn to God in prayer and meditation,” was established by Congress in 1952 during a period in which religion and government became more and more entangled. Two years later, Congress voted to add “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and a year after that, they voted to add “In God We Trust” to all U.S. currency.

The Day of Prayer is consistently used by organizations to brand America as a nation “birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.” In reality, America is a nation with a Constitution that expressly prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion” and in which nonreligious people are a rapidly growing bloc of voters at roughly 29% of adults.

"Part of being an atheist is acknowledging that we have an obligation to build the kind of world we want to be a part of," said Nick Fish, President of American Atheists. "In celebration of the Secular Week of Action, we raised more than $15,000 and packed 50,000 meals for families in need at our 2019 National Convention in Cincinnati last week. As the founder of American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, said, 'An atheist thinks heaven is something for which we should work now, here on earth, for all to enjoy.'"


Advocates for Freethought and Skepticism from Oregon State University doing a forest clean up

“We aren’t volunteering to denigrate our religious neighbors or to suggest secular action and prayer are mutually exclusive,” continued Allen. “But when such a big platform is delivered to people of faith by way of a national holiday, secular Americans want to make clear that we value actions over words. We have the muddy boots, packed meals, and stuffed trash bags to prove it.”

While the Secular Week of Action ended on May 2, nonreligious organizations continue to volunteer year-round, demonstrating the secular community’s commitment to public service. That includes events this weekend, including a food pantry fundraiser in Illinois hosted by End of the Line Humanists, and a sustainable item giveaway, hosted by Central Colorado Humanists.


Atheist Community of Lubbock, TX serving the homeless.

“At the core of humanism is a belief that positive change requires human intervention,” said Noelle George, Executive Director of Foundation Beyond Belief, a humanist nonprofit that has given millions to charity and organizes volunteer teams doing service work around the country. “That means if we want a more compassionate, equitable, and inclusive world, we have to make it happen. The Week of Action is a way to celebrate humanity’s shared values and what we can accomplish together—rather than focusing only on the values of those who pray.”  

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To view more photos of secular public service events from across the country, click here.

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