November 2019 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee sparked controversy last month when he issued an official call for prayer and fasting.

“We have decided to proclaim an official day of prayer and fasting for our state,” Lee, a Republican, said, in a video he posted to an official state social media account. “We invite all Tennesseans to join with us in their homes, in their communities and their places of worship to fast and to pray for God’s favor and blessing on the people of Tennessee.”

But not everyone in the state agreed that the government should be encouraging people to pray on the designated day, Oct. 10. Among the dissenters was the Nashville chapter of Americans United, reported the Nashville Tennessean.

“Rather than offering a unifying message, Governor Lee is excluding his own constituents and making them feel like outsiders in their own communities," Ron Deal, a board member of the local AU unit, said in a statement. “Our government should make all Tennesseans feel welcome and included as part of the fabric of our state.”

The Tennessean also reached out to Charles Haynes, founding director of the Freedom Forum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center in Washington, D.C.

“We’re one of the most religiously diverse societies in the world and with many people with no religious affiliation,” Haynes said. “People expect their government leaders to recognize that and not to make them feel like outsiders in their country or their own state.”