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Atheist group calls out Sam Brownback over prayer and fasting request

(Reuters/Joshua Roberts)Republican Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017.

Sam Brownback, who was recently confirmed as the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, drew the ire of a prominent atheist group after he asked Kansas residents to fast and pray for the country at large.

On his last full day as the governor of Kansas, Brownback issued a proclamation that invoked George Washington and called on the public to pray for both the state and the U.S. as a whole.

"President George Washington, in his 1795 Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving called on Americans 'to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience,'" Brownback said in a proclamation made public Monday, according to The Kansas City Star.

"I personally feel blessed by the time I have spent serving our great state and would like to observe a time of prayer and fasting before God takes me on to the next part of my journey. I invite all Kansans to join me as we pray for our state and our nation," he added.

The proclamation, which called for a day of fasting and prayer on Tuesday, was denounced by the atheist activist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), calling it "super weird" and also illegal. "That's both super weird and unconstitutional. Shame on Brownback!" the group tweeted.

The secularist group has previously expressed concern that Brownback would use his new position to promote his personal religion.

FFRF Co-President Dan Barker voiced his fear that the former governor would not look out for all those who are persecuted and oppressed, but only the Christians.

In July, the FFRF issued a news release alleging that Brownback has used his power as governor to "weaponize" religious freedom and use it as a tool to impose religious beliefs.

The group pointed to Brownback's proclamation of the "Day of Restoration in Kansas" on Dec. 8, 2012, noting that he appeared in his official capacity as Kansas governor in a commercial for the private religious group ReignDown USA.

The FFRF explained that Brownback had urged the public to ask for "humility to be used as salt and light in a difficult season for the United States and for our state," noting that salt and light is a reference to Matthew 5:13-16, which the group says is about converting people to Christianity.

After the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage in 2015, the atheist group denounced Brownback's executive order, which prevented the state government from taking legal action against religious adoption agencies and other organizations for operating in accordance with their sincerely held beliefs or moral conviction.

Brownback was confirmed to be the religious freedom ambassador last week after senators voted 49–49, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie in his favor.

He resigned as Kansas governor on Wednesday and was replaced by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. On Thursday, Brownback was officially sworn in as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom at the U.S. Capitol by the vice president.

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