You’ve probably heard by now that the National Day of Prayer has been deemed a violation of the Establishment Clause. The suit was brought against President Obama and others by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I won’t go into the specifics since you can read that elsewhere.
It’s my contention that the National Day of Prayer has never been about prayer but mainly about political posturing and in some sense power. Since it’s inception in the 50’s it seems that it has become a way for politicians to massage their religious (predominantly Christian) constituents.
Many have argued with me on this site and others that there was nothing inherently wrong with such things as the National Day of Prayer, prayer at the inauguration, prayer to open Congressional sessions, etc. But I am very excited that this ruling came down and I just hope it stands up through the appeal process (although it is highly unlikely it will).
Regardless of what you think about prayer (I for one do not pray), the idea that our national and local leaders can invoke religious and mystical acts like prayer and encourage us to invoke them in our own lives (either directly or implied) is a scary notion. Read the proclamation for yourself. This part is especially troubling:
I call upon Americans to pray in thanksgiving for our freedoms and blessings and to ask for God’s continued guidance, grace, and protection for this land that we love.
I’ve never understood the notion of a National Day of Prayer. It never made sense. If we don’t allow prayer in schools how is the President allowed to ask the nation to pray on one day in May every year? Some say, “If you don’t want to pray don’t. If you don’t believe in it, then it doesn’t matter.” My response: ”Hell yes, it matters!”
As U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb noted in her ruling:
“The same law that prohibits the government from declaring a National Day of Prayer also prohibits it from declaring a National Day of Blasphemy.”
Our President imploring people to pray should scare you. Why? Can you imagine the outrage if the President invoked a “National Stop Praying Day” where our President says this to us:
I call upon Americans to stop praying on this day. Our freedoms and blessings are a result of our efforts and no spiritual being real or otherwise has any bearing on them whatsoever. This land that we love is not guided or protected by the hand of a supreme being. Give grace to each other and care for each other because that’s where our strength lies, not in the daily intervention of God.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe in the power of personal prayer. I know that many of my friends and readers here do. It’s one thing for the President to state his personal belief in prayer. It’s quite another for him to “call upon” us to pray (or not pray) as well