- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2002

An atheistic group is hoping 3,000 people will attend its Godless Americans March on Washington next month to counter what it says is an increasing influence of religion in public life.
American Atheists, a Parsippany, N.J., group founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, is calling for atheists of "all stripes" to "demand a seat at the table" by marching on the National Mall at 11 a.m. Nov. 2. It was Mrs. O'Hair's 1962 U.S. Supreme Court case Murray v. Curlett that banned prayer from public schools.
"[Nonreligious people] are American citizens entitled to the same rights as religious people," said Ron Barrier, national spokesman for American Atheists.
Organizers say they are not sure how many will attend because "it is hard to organize nonbelievers because they are not led by a shepherd; they are not sheep lining up waiting to be sheared," Mr. Barrier said. They listed 3,000 people on a permit from the National Park Service.
American Atheists says marchers will include atheists, freethinkers and humanists, as well as two satanist groups the Order of Perdition and the United Satanic Convenire. Some groups protested inclusion of the satanists.
"This is supposed to be a march of those without religion," said Ed Buckner, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, which will also be represented at the march. "We don't believe there is Satan or any other god."
However, American Atheists stands firm. "We think we made the right decision," said President Ellen Johnson, explaining that the satanists are also "godless." She added, "This will be a little party for atheists."
Mr. Buckner, who will speak at the event, estimates 25 to 250 people from his organization will attend.
"We are the biggest and the best of any nonreligious groups," he said.
"The key thing here is defending nonbelievers in religion," said Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquirer, a publication of Council for Secular Humanism.
Organizers hope the Godless Americans March on Washington will capitalize on grass-roots support to promote activism of nonreligious people.
The demonstration will include speeches and entertainment. The march will be contained to the pedestrian path on the Mall from the Washington Monument to the west side of the Capitol. Marchers are expected to take 20 to 30 minutes to walk the seven to 10 blocks.
California lawyer Michael Newdow, whose lawsuit challenged the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, is scheduled to recite a secular rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Other speakers include August Brunsman from the Secular Student Alliance; Kathleen Johnson, president of the Military Atheists and Freethinkers; Frank Zindler, editor of the American Atheist Press; Jim Strayer of Humanists of Florida; and Bobbie Kirkhart, president of the Atheist Alliance. Several others are listed at www.godlessamericans.org, the official march Web site.
Chris Harper, creator of the satiric Landover Baptist Church (www.landoverbaptist.org), also will speak. Rock bands Overlord and UniversalDice.com will provide entertainment.
American Atheists has sent letters to all members of Congress asking them to attend. None has responded so far.

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