NIA Defends Prayer and Opposes Separations at Families Belong Together Rallies

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Excessive heat warnings for Saturday, June 30, 2018, didn’t keep people from local Families Belong Together rallies. Organizers were ready with plenty of free ice-cold water while afternoon heat indexes peaked at 115 degrees.

For Northern Indiana Atheists (NIA), our day started in Goshen, Indiana, on the Elkhart County Courthouse lawn with over 600 of our more compassionate community members. We joined cities nationwide to call for an end of separating children from parents at our borders and for reuniting already separated families.

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On the lawn, one table was equipped to sign people up for resident ID cards, which help immigrants, the elderly, and formerly incarcerated and homeless people who are unable to get a driver’s license or other form of official ID. Another table was taking rapid responder applicants who will be trained to provide on-site support in the event of an ICE raid. Voter registration was another popular table, signing up new, determined voters. And NIA provided free Families Belong Together rally signs to anyone who needed one.

At one point, event organizers handed out compact mylar blankets. Later, the crowd was asked to open their mylar blankets, spread them out, and lay on them to demonstrate what the refugee children feel and hear in their cages. That was an impactful moment for everyone.

During one of the prayers from a community faith leader, a nearby man on a Harley was revving his engine obnoxiously to drown out the pastor and his message. Three of our members joined another person talking with him. One of our members took photos to hold the guy accountable; another joined the conversation, while the third stood by in case it escalated. The man admitted he knew he was interrupting a prayer—when called out on it, his amazing response was, “Shut up!” He then began regurgitating Fox News talking points and was immediately shut down by factseach time he met a fact he didn’t like, he would just move on to the next talking point. Feeling defeated, and knowing his picture would soon be shared on social media, he said, “You guys are no fun,” and left, not to return. The speaker was able to finish the prayer, and the rally continued uninterrupted.

After an eventful and hot morning in Goshen, we headed to South Bend, Indiana, for another Families Belong Together rally. We set up to hand out the free rally signs, and we were also able to give out more information about who we are and our purpose. We had long conversations with community members, some who thought they were the only atheists in Indiana. We also talked to dozens of rational religious people who appreciated our being out to show support for their community. One woman said, “We have a church on just about every city block; where are they? It’s good to see the atheists out supporting our community.”

We ended the day with only about a dozen signs left out of the 200 we started the day with to be used at another upcoming rally. Individual and family memberships give us the resources to print signs like these, help families in need, and keep up the fight for separation of church and state. Visit our membership page to add your voice to our cause:

Troy Moss