WILKES-BARRE — One area grad student thinks the government has no place asking people to pray.
Justin Vacula, 24, a mental health counseling student at Marywood University, hung a banner that reads “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” on Public Square this week in response to the May 2 National Day of Prayer and the Circle the Square with Prayer events held by area churches at the same place.
Vacula, a member of the NEPA Freethinking Society, said he knows the message might sound a little harsh, but does not intend for it to be a personal affront to Christians, rather a loud invitation to talk about reasons for praying. He took exception to the federally recognized day of prayer because people should be able to choose their own beliefs.
“I don’t think that’s the business of the government,” Vacula said. “People should make decisions on their own.”
A self-described atheist and a skeptic, Vacula said he has his beliefs — or lacks them — because he needs evidence first, something he hasn’t seen to validate his faith in a god.
He completed his undergraduate studies at King’s College and spent time with people of faith. He met people there who followed the Biblical mandate in 1 Peter 3:15, to defend beliefs with gentleness and respect, Vacula said.
“If all the religious people in the world were like the ministers and theologians at King’s, I’d have no problem,” Vacula said.
Vacula secured $50 from Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national organization of which he is a member, to pay Wilkes-Barre to hang his banner for the week. The foundation also supplied the banner.