United Church of Bacon: May the Lard be with you

“Hail Bacon,

Full of grease,

The Lard is with thee.”

So go the opening lines to the United Church of Bacon’s “Hail Piggy: A Prayer for Bacon.”

Despite the puns (UCB clergy are “friars”), the secular church has a serious mission: to fight discrimination against nonbelievers, to preserve church-state separation in the public sector and to demand equal rights for everyone, regardless of faith.

Prophet John Whiteside talked about why he founded the UCB, why the church’s friars are officiating at weddings and, of course: Why bacon? Answers have been edited.

Q: Why did you start the United Church of Bacon?

A: The church was started at Penn Jillette’s house in 2010 by the 12 apostates, all friends of Penn. The first active membership drive was in 2012 at The Amaz!ng Meeting, a science and skepticism conference. The motivation was to get people to donate to secular charities. We go to conventions and team up with secular charities, giving out free T-shirts to people who donate a minimum of $5. We teamed up with the Secular Coalition for America at the American Atheists National Convention in April and raised over $23,600. At TAM 2014, we raised more than $25,000 for the Secular Student Alliance and the James Randi Educational Foundation.

Q: How did you and Penn Jillette, the comedian/illusionist/atheist of Penn & Teller fame, team up?

A: Penn is a friend and our approved and sanctioned Sunday school teacher. He’s also known for throwing the Bacon and Doughnut Party at The Amaz!ng Meeting. Other preachers include singer/actress Heather Henderson and comedian Emery Emery who together host and produce the “Ardent Atheist” and “Skeptically Yours” podcasts. We recently named former Seventh-day Adventist pastor Ryan Bell, who was fired for living a year as an atheist, “Prophet of Defrocked Pastors,” so he is once again clergy.

Q: So why … bacon?

A: Because bacon is real and can be proven to exist in a court of law. We are a church of skeptics. If you can prove it, we will believe it.

Q: Have you had complaints the church is offensive to Muslims and Jews? Or noninclusive of vegetarians?

A: Veggie bacon counts too. Our mission states, “First and foremost, Praise Bacon! (Even if you don’t like bacon – gasp – all you have to do is enjoy the scent.)”

Q: What are some of the tenets of Baconism?

A: Bacon is our god, bacon is not jealous, you may have other gods or no gods before bacon. It would be nice if, as some other religions teach, you would love your neighbor and be a generally nice, moral person. Baconists love those of all races, backgrounds, sexual orientations, genders and beliefs, and they in turn love the divine smell.