New House and Senate members are being urged to reject an invitation to join the 105-strong Congressional Prayer Caucus by the influential American Humanist Association which claims there is no evidence of God or Heaven.

In a letter to new lawmakers following last week's election, the group warned that Prayer Caucus members too often push legislation that favors Christianity and Christian social morals and that senators and congressmen should abide the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

They also indicated opposition to the practice of opening and closing each session of Congress with a prayer, which "relegates non-religious Americans and others who don't pray to the status of second-class citizens," according to American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt.

The Prayer Caucus, founded and co-chaired by Rep. J. Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican, shrugged off the secular group's effort and predicted that some of the new members will join. The caucus supports religious-linked legislation and draws attention to efforts to remove religion from public. For example, they recently offered a legal brief to fight those trying to remove a statue of Jesus in Montana's Flathead National Forest.

In his letter to new members, Speckhardt suggested that it was OK to reject God and prayer when legislating because lots of Americans are not religious. "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 said.

In bold letters, his letter implored: "I ask you not to join the Congressional Prayer Caucus and to actively work to ensure that a wall of separation between church and state is strengthened and maintained."

In the past, the group has honored feminists Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan and authors Gore Vidal and Carl Sagan.