Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is praying for drought relief in the midwest farmlands, but what he‚??s getting in return is criticism from environmentalists for not linking the dryness to climate change and from atheists for actually praying.
‚??I get on my knees everyday and I’m saying an extra prayer right now,‚?Ě Vilsack said. ‚??If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it.‚?Ě
Vilsack‚??s comments were met with condemnation from Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, who said the cabinet official should not be asking for divine intervention.
‚??It sends the wrong message to distraught farmers when the Agriculture secretary suggests that the best response is to pray,‚?Ě Flynn said.
‚??For a cabinet official to recommend prayer as a solution or call attention to his own devotions may violate the Constitution’s prohibition against establishment of religion. Most important, though, is that prayer doesn’t work. But if you want to test the power of prayer yourself, consider this. Apparently Secretary Vilsack’s been praying for rain every day; how’s that working out?‚?Ě
There is no word yet on whether Flynn‚??s group was offended by Vilsack‚??s suggestion that a rain dance might end the drought.
Meanwhile, environmentalists want Vilsack to focus his energies on denouncing the drought as a result of human activity and blame the cloudless blue skies on climate change.
They were none too happy when Obama‚??s agriculture chief told a White House press briefing that he was ‚??not a scientist so I‚??m not going to opine as to the cause of this.‚?Ě
Man-made climate change is supposed to exacerbate water shortages, lengthen heat waves and extend droughts in the Great Plains, according to a 2009 Agriculture Department report.
‚??It‚??s simply not credible for Vilsack to now claim he is unaware of the science, and it contradicts the USDA‚??s mission of providing farmers with the scientific information they need to do their jobs,‚?Ě the groups said in a statement.
Congress this week is expected to pass a drought relief bill in the amount of $621 million to aid farmers and ranchers affected by the drought, freezes and wildfires.