(CNSNews.com) - In what one Republican calls an "unprecedented" move, an atheist group is advising all newcomers to the U.S. House of Representatives to stay away from the Congressional Prayer Caucus.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), who founded the caucus in 2005, said the American Humanist Association is among the "extremist groups" that "want to make sure they've censored and shut down anything related to faith."
Forbes, speaking Tuesday on "Fox and Friends," said the prayer caucus's 105 members "stand up and fight for religious freedom and religious liberty."
He said the atheist group -- "in a situation that we have never seen before -- actually wrote letters trying to get members not to join."
Among its objections to the Congressional Prayer Caucus, the American Humanist Association complains that the caucus supports and believes in the National Motto ("In God We Trust") and wants to continue the practice of opening Congress with a daily prayer.
"And for those two major reasons they feel that the Congressional Prayer Caucus shouldn't be in existence and people shouldn't join it," Forbes said.
The atheist group also cited the caucus's support for legislation calling on the president to designate 2010 as "the National Year of the Bible" and its support for crosses on public land.
“Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus have repeatedly introduced and supported legislation that many secular Americans feel is unconstitutional and often favors Christianity above all other religions,” said American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt in his letter to newly elected members of Congress.
“Incoming House members should know that approximately one in five of their constituents are not religiously affiliated, and even more insist on maintaining the wall of separation between church and state,” Speckhardt continued. “Secular Americans are ready to work with all members of the 113th Congress, regardless of their personal beliefs, if they agree on this basic constitutional principle.”
Forbes said he has no objection to atheists or anyone else saying whatever they want to say. "The unfortunate thing is these extremist groups don't give us the same right, and they want to censor our ability to say that we do believe in God and we do believe in our faith."
Forbes said the atheists' real agenda is to stop anyone in government from saying anything about God, faith or religion -- and to stop anyone in the church from saying anything about government.
"And that's clearly not the intention of the First Amendment and the Constitution as most of us know it."