Crash: Atheists go after NASCAR pre-race prayers

by Gregory Tomlin |

(Reuters/Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Martin Truex Jr. (78), Matt Kenseth (20), Jamie Mcmurray (1), Danica Patrick (10), Brad Keselowski (2) and Greg Biffle (16) wreck during "The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway" on Feb. 13, 2016.

MADISON, Wisc. (Christian Examiner) – The Freedom from Religion Foundation, the litigious Wisconsin-based atheist group which claims it defends the wall of separation between church and state in the First Amendment, has a new target in its sights.

This time, however, it isn't a government entity or a civic group engaged in Bible Study on a school campus that has raised the ire of atheists. It is NASCAR, a private corporation.

The group is asking racing fans and other non-religious people to write to the CEO of NASCAR to ask him to leave the "offensive" invocations out of the race events. The group even provided talking points for those who wish to complain to NASCAR.

"As one of the nearly 24 percent of the U.S. population who's nonreligious, I enjoy NASCAR, but am left cold by the constant prayer and mindless imposition of religion at racing events. NASCAR is not a church or religious organization and should quit acting like one. Prayer is not a magic panacea nor is it a substitute for safe driving practices," the talking points claimed.

As one of the nearly 24 percent of the U.S. population who's nonreligious, I enjoy NASCAR, but am left cold by the constant prayer and mindless imposition of religion at racing events. NASCAR is not a church or religious organization and should quit acting like one. Prayer is not a magic panacea nor is it a substitute for safe driving practices.
- NASCAR talking points from atheist group

"Drivers and audience members shouldn't be expected to show obeisance to somebody else's religion or God," the statement continued. "NASCAR: Drop the divisive and unnecessary religion."

In a press release about the initiative, FFRF said "turning left isn't just for the religious right," before listing a series of negative reactions to a prayer offered by the Duck Dynasty patriarch at the Duck Commander 500 in Fort Worth, Texas, which is sponsored by the Robertson family's company.

In the prayer, which FFRF classified as "downright embarrassing," Robertson said:

"Father thank you for founding our nation. I pray father that we don't forget who brought us — You. Our faith in the blood of Jesus and his resurrection. Help us father to get back to that," Robertson said. "I pray Father that we put a Jesus man in the White House. Help us do that and help us all to repent to do what's right to love you more and to love each other. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen."

FFRF called the prayer a "political (and offensive) invocation."

"In an election year in which one of the expected presidential candidates is female, he used NASCAR as an opportunity to pray to 'put a Jesus-Man in the White House,'" FFRF claimed. The prayer was also criticized by writers with the Associated Press, Orlando Sentinel and others.

FFRF is likely wasting its time and its breath in rubbing bumpers with NASCAR's character. When the Robertson's inked the sponsorship deal for the race in 2014, it was hailed by Texas Motor Speedway as an ideal fit for the event.

"This is perhaps the most unique sponsorship in professional sports because not only does this come with special branding, it comes with celebrity spokespeople that are followed by tens of millions of people every week," TMS President Eddie Gossage said at the time.

"Fans will see members of the Robertson Family and cast of Duck Dynasty and all the rest during Duck Commander 500 week here at Texas Motor Speedway and we have produced some awesome merchandise that both race fans and Duck Commander fans will love. This marriage is perfection."