Last year, both local and state politicians including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed proclamations for the Sacramento Freethought Committee.
But this year, Gov. Jerry Brown's office sent an email informing the group he would not issue a message for them.
So at their annual celebration at McGeorge School of Law this Sunday, nonbelievers will display the proclamations that were signed. Next to them will be an empty frame, symbolizing the one they did not receive from Brown.
"We're very disappointed. This is a slap in the face," said David Diskin, organizer of the Sacramento Freethought Day. "He supports National Day of Prayer but not a day that celebrates separation of church and state."
This is yet another example of how atheists are treated differently from the religious, Diskin said. He believes their proclamation was rejected because many of them are atheists.
In September, the Governor's Office of Constituent Affairs responded to the group, saying its request had been reviewed twice. The email did not offer a specific reason for the decline. Instead, it said staff had been reduced: "This means that messages that have been done in the past, are not done any longer."
Gil Duran, a Brown spokesman, responded to The Bee in an email. "The Governor's Office receives hundreds of requests for proclamations and, unfortunately, we cannot accommodate them all. But we certainly encourage all Californians to think free and independent thoughts."
Diskin is skeptical.
"It would have taken a lot less staff time if he had just signed it," he said. "They won't say the real reason because we're atheists."
The proclamation is sure to be discussed Sunday at the 10th annual Freethought Day, Sacramento's largest-ever event for those who do not believe including, atheists, agnostics, skeptics and humanists. The day is part educational fair and part activist conference. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Diskin said a freethinker is someone who does not follow dogma. "You can be a Christian or Muslim or Jewish freethinker, but most are atheist," he said. "It's someone who has decided to investigate the world and find your own truth."
Speakers include Fred Edwords (American Humanist Association and United Coalition of Reason), Elisabeth Cornwell (the Richard Dawkins Foundation), Dan Barker (Freedom from Religion Foundation) and Glenn Branch (National Center for Science Education).
Sacramento's Michael Newdow, who has challenged the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, will also speak. Other activities include a free-thought trivia showdown, comedy and musical entertainment.
Nonbelievers said the event will give them an opportunity to discuss the latest church and state issues as well as be with those who have had similar experiences as nonbelievers.
From the playground where they say other parents view them with suspicion to the political world where they are shunned or ignored, atheists said they are often treated like second-class citizens and are not trusted.
A June Gallup Poll said 49 percent of Americans would not vote for a presidential candidate who is an atheist.
Lack of respect for their nonbeliefs is why organizers of the Sac City Freethinkers say their banners have been destroyed three times in recent weeks at Sacramento City College.
"We are the only student club that has to continually deal with vandalism," said Donald Peat, a student and member of the Sac City Freethinkers. "Our banners are either taken down or torn."
Rene Hamlin of Sacramento said other parents do not allow their children to play with her kids because she is an atheist. "I respect people who have religious faith, but they should respect us too," she said.
"I have to deal with this when my kids come home with religious dogma when someone has invited them to church."
Andrea Griffith of Folsom said family members stopped speaking to her when she said she didn't believe. "Now we only communicate by cards," Griffith said.
Gov. Brown's decision not to sign the group's resolution pleased some.
"This is a Christian nation with the majority of people with Christian beliefs," said Pastor Dwight Burchett, president of the National Association of Evangelicals of Northern California.
Diskin said the empty frame at Sunday's event is sure to get a lot of attention. "We really don't understand why he didn't sign it."