Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds declared Thursday a day of prayer as the state continues to battle the coronavirus, but one group says that's not her place.
During her daily press conference Thursday morning, Reynolds asked Iowans to pray for protection, healing, grace and peace.
"This has been a challenging time for all of us but with God’s grace there is always a promise of hope," she said.
Interfaith Alliance of Iowa executive director Connie Ryan said the group was alarmed by the governor's proclamation and that it's not the role of elected officials to promote religion.
"I think it’s a violation of our First Amendment and that the government should not establish a religion," Ryan said. "When an elected official uses their position as a government representative, they should be careful not to promote one religion."
The proclamation specifically references Judaism and Christianity and includes a Bible passage.
Instead of encouraging people to pray, Ryan said Reynolds should concentrate on containing the spread of the virus causing the respiratory disease known as COVID-19.
"It was very much inappropriate for the governor of the state of Iowa to promote one religion and their practice," she said. "She should be about focusing on the best practices of public health to ensure that Iowans are well and are safe, period. She should leave religious practices up to faith leaders and those that are part of that tradition."
Reynolds' proclamation came on the day of the 59th annual Iowa Prayer Breakfast, which was held online Thursday morning. The proclamation also mentions that for Christians, this week is Holy Week, ending Sunday with Easter.
The proclamation states that "our nation's motto is 'In God We Trust,' with America being founded on Biblical Judeo-Christian principals and values," and encourages people to ask God to bless those impacted by the coronavirus and on the front lines fighting the pandemic.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa also issued a statement on Thursday in which Mark Stringer, the organization's executive director, called the proclamation an "unconstitutional and exclusionary message."
"Calling for prayer to one particular God at this time divides us more than it unites us, and we sorely need leadership that brings our state together during this difficult time," Stringer said.
Reynolds is not alone in declaring a day of prayer. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem declared did so Wednesday when her state's death toll from the coronavirus rose to six people. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice declared a day of prayer on March 25 after the state issued a stay-at-home order.