Prayer Police Attack National Prayer Day

There is an ancient Scottish nursery rhyme that reads:  “From Ghoulies and Ghosties and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us.”  More dangerous to modern-day anti-prayer zealots than even the “ghoulies and beasties and things that go bump in the night” from which divine protection is needed, is prayer itself; or at least, voluntary prayer offered by public officials.  The latest target for the prayer police?  The National Day of Prayer, scheduled to be celebrated in Washington, DC and in communities across the country on May 6th.

Why are the these First Amendment zealots so hot under the clerical collar about National Prayer Day – something which has gone off without a hitch every year since first declared by President Harry Truman 58 years ago?  It’s hard to say, since the event is the antithesis of controversy; bringing together men and women from across the political spectrum, representing many nationalities and diverse religious faiths, for a common, and, of course, voluntary, celebration of prayer.  Notwithstanding its benign nature, this day of religious infamy now sits in the crosshairs of groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State. 

Admittedly, National Prayer Day does have a connection to the federal government.  The annual presidential proclamations are issued pursuant to a law signed by President Truman in 1952.  And therein lies its mortal sin, in the eyes of church-state purists. 

Long before 1952, however, prayer figured explicitly and sometimes prominently in matters involving our federal government.  When the very first Congress assembled in 1789, it was opened with a – gasp! – prayer.  In fact, every day of every Congress since then, has begun with a prayer delivered by a priest, pastor, rabbi, or other religious leader invited by a member of Congress to do so.  It is widely considered an honor to be so invited.

Yet, those seeking a “Chinese Wall” between any activity that is remotely religious and anything that is remotely connected to the government, are constantly casting about for new, otherwise innocuous religion-tinged events against which to file lawsuits.  The fact that President Barack Obama, like every president before him back to Truman, has denoted one day each year as a “National Day of Prayer,” apparently was just too much for the prayer police to stomach.

Thus has continued a lawsuit initially filed during the administration of Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, demanding to have National Prayer Day declared unconstitutional.  Not surprisingly, the religion separatists were able to find a federal judge – this one in Madison, Wisconsin – to agree with their myopic view of the First Amendment.  Judge Barbara Crabb did just that in a ruling earlier this month.  Graciously, the judge permitted this year’s National Prayer Breakfast in the nation’s capital (and ironically in the shadow of the National Cathedral) to go on as scheduled.

Reflecting the multi-front nature of the assault on prayer practiced by various First Amendment fanatics, another self-styled “watchdog” group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, campaigned successfully to have the Pentagon disinvite Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, to lead a military day of prayer May 6th.  The entire prayer observance was then cancelled.

It may be that all these groups just have way too much time on their hands, with nothing to do but stir up lawsuits and forum shop for judges similarly inclined.  Their motives, and the results of their efforts, however, are not so benign.  By constantly sniping at virtually any activity in which government representatives engage that might fall into the category of “religious activity” – notwithstanding it be purely voluntary and in furtherance of nothing more than attempting to foster an atmosphere of greater civility and productivity in the public arena – these prayer police are diminishing the chances that public policy debates will actually soften and become more productive.

187 comments Add your comment

Tim O'Brien

April 26th, 2010
7:01 am

Why can’t religious people comprehend that prayer should be private. Any time, even the invocation at the beginning of congressional sessions, a government official leads a prayer at a government function, that official violates the 1st Amendment

Religious views and practices are respected, but when you lead a prayer, or endorse prayer by a legislative or executive action, you are violating MY right not to have prayer forced on my by government.

The NDoP is an endorsement of religion by government.

This is a is primarily a Christian-run movement. So, for those of you who are, think about this: what if the Muslims began to out-number you? Now, you’ve opened the very door the 1st Amendment sought to close ans the Muslims could walk right in.

Sick&Tired

April 26th, 2010
7:22 am

I don’t need a national day of prayer, because I pray every day. So, your article is a bunch of hoop la about nothing. Furthermore, when I think of Franklin Graham, he’s not someone I would want leading a prayer on my behalf. Some of the things that he has said in the past are just plain hateful.

T-Town

April 26th, 2010
7:23 am

Well TO, please forward all your cash to me as “In God We Trust” is prominently displayed on the currency and I would not want you to be offended.

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
7:34 am

“Any time, even the invocation at the beginning of congressional sessions, a government official leads a prayer at a government function, that official violates the 1st Amendment”

How? Who’s forcing you to bow your head and close your eyes?

Morrus

April 26th, 2010
7:35 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over

nelsonhoward

April 26th, 2010
7:35 am

West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette [1943] The Supreme Court ruled that the Barnett sisters did not have to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The sisters were Jehovahs Witnesses and the religion prohited this.

!943 was wartime and the stifeling of freedom of speech, all could see the diasterous consequences. My opinion is that if there are people that are against National Prayer Day, they have every right to speak out.

The First Amendment grew out of an experience which taught that society cannot trust the conscience of a majority to keep its religious zeal within the limits that a free society can tolerate I do not think it anymore intended to leave the conscience of the minority to fix its limits. Civil Government cannot let any group ride rough-shod over others simply because their “consciences” tell them to do so. Douglas v. Jeanette 319 U.S. 157 [1943].

right

April 26th, 2010
7:38 am

National day of prayer is, to me, not that big of a deal because it doesn’t really affect anybody personally. Do it or don’t. However, praying in schools during staff meetings should not be allowed. I believe it is against the law but people do it anyway…and that becomes personal.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

April 26th, 2010
7:39 am

Well argued. I respectfully suggest to Tim @ 7:01 and Sick @ 7:22 that a collection of believers celebrating public prayer offers no threat to secularists nor anyone else who chooses to not participate. Beware those who would control the thoughts of others.

Jonathan Nichols

April 26th, 2010
7:43 am

@Tim O’Brien,

I have yet to see a prayer be lead in which a gun (or other device that says your life is in danger) is used to coerce one to participate in any prayer by any governmental body of people. Additionally, the 1st amendment against an establishment of religion is more so that the government will not establish a national religion such as the Church of England. This prevents the government from being able to imprison you for not having the same belief system (which is the primary reason many came to the new land i.e Puritans). It also allows for you to walk out on any assembly where someone may open with a prayer that you disagree with.

Thank you for assuming that all Christians have their own religious self-interest in mind. While I do know of Christians who would be more than glad to see that their religion is the only one practiced, I believe that there is an overwhelming majority of Christians who would be just a fine to see that even if another group took the majority control that they too would be able to openly practice their religious beliefs as long as those Christians were also able to practice their beliefs (much like Barr mentioned in his article about multi-faith Congressional openings).

Bubba

April 26th, 2010
7:47 am

“Any time, even the invocation at the beginning of congressional sessions, a government official leads a prayer at a government function, that official violates the 1st Amendment”

Tim, can you cite exactly what part of the First Amendment that violates? Quote the exact wording, please. If you don’t know it, you can google it.

Troy Moss

April 26th, 2010
7:53 am

your “ancient” beliefs are what fly people into buildings and motivate people to strap explosives to themselves. why would anyone vote for someone with an imaginary friend that tells them what’s right and wrong? i want to vote for someone that is upfront with their beliefs and doesn’t have the option of “praying about it” to shirk responsibility when something goes wrong. and calling someone who stands up for our first amendment rights a “zealot”?! i think you’re way off base on this one, but it’s nice to know you would ignore the first amendment rights of the american people.

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
7:55 am

“but it’s nice to know you would ignore the first amendment rights of the american people.”

Who’s forcing you to participate. Is someone putting a gun to your head? Please dial 9-1-1 if this is happening. If not, shut up.

Aquagirl

April 26th, 2010
7:58 am

I think a national day of prayer is a fine idea, as long as cthulu and the flying spaghetti monster are included.

T-Town

April 26th, 2010
8:03 am

What is amazing is what happened in Vietnam during a firefight. All the atheist were praying like hell and only stopped when the fighting ceased. Never could figure that one out.

jg

April 26th, 2010
8:07 am

Why to people become so paranoid and upset concerning prayer? They are not praying that anything bad can happen – just praying to God to ask Him for wisdom for our leaders – protection for our troops – guidance in all of our lives – forgiveness for what this country has done and the mistakes we have made. You do not need a National Day of Prayer – lots of people pray every day!

Mitch

April 26th, 2010
8:07 am

and i thought you were a libertarian! :-(

TnGelding

April 26th, 2010
8:08 am

Tim O’Brien

April 26th, 2010
7:01 am

Well put. I’m surprised our host doesn’t see it that way.

Stick to the FACTS

April 26th, 2010
8:08 am

Until recently, we didn’t need freedom from religion in America; it was already guaranteed in the U. S. Constitution.

But, religion has been high jacked by the right wing republicans. They pick and choose which the parts they like and ignore the rest.

Religion has no place in government or politics and should be separated by a wall as they founders intended.

We have seen the horrors committed in the name of religion by the fanatics around the world and here in America. So yes, we do need protection from this divisive and destructive ritual.

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
8:11 am

TnGelding – Since you agree w/ Tim O’Brien, can you answer my 7:34 question?

Deanna

April 26th, 2010
8:22 am

Bob forget to tell you all one thing, and that omission was the entire reason for the cancellation.

For some reason, some Christians just can’t seem to play nice together on a national day of prayer, wanting to call other religions bad names and trying to create hate.

So we have a minister trying to create hate on a national day of prayer. It kind of goes against the whole reason for prayer.

So, we have people most offended by cancellation of a national day of prayer complaining because they got caught for creating the situation causing the cancellation.

And all they had to do was to follow their religious leader’s direction instead of following their own egocentric ideas of what they think their religion says.

DavidEm

April 26th, 2010
8:23 am

Let’s have a National Astrology Day, and a National Goat Entrail Reading Day, as well. And, of course, we should revive the Biblically sound practice of animal sacrifice. On a National level, of course.

TnGelding

April 26th, 2010
8:26 am

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
8:11 am

Prayer is a private matter. Government officials should not be showing preference for any religion by displaying their own publicly. Some politicians flaunt it like they’re the true believers and the others are false. I was surprised and pleased to see a recent poll that indicated most of us don’t think that way. Respect for other cultures and religions will go a long way in improving our standing in the world.

As I posted earlier:

Matthew 6:5-6: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men….when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret….”

Amen!

Stand up for what you believe

April 26th, 2010
8:26 am

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…participating in a prayer event does not a law make! The whole idea of “separation of church and state” is a farce. The whole idea of this was so that the government could not intrude on any religious activity NOT the other way around. Have we already forgotten why the Pilgrims came here in the first place? It is sad that the Washington today has not the foggiest clue what the Washington back then was creating and protecting. We think we are “so” smart today…really? Look around and see where all this “progress” has gotten us. Prayer DOES change things…it is not a benign act, people (who don’t like it) are uncomfortable around it for a reason; and a good one at that. To get this great country of ours back on track we need a National Year of Prayer!

Noah

April 26th, 2010
8:33 am

We are becoming a nation of pansies (rhymes with wussy) where you can’t offend anyone’s sensibilities anymore. Eventually we will work God and prayer out of our societal realm. Then when disaster hits (hmmm…like Katrina) everyone asks…”Where was God…how could he let this happen?” Be careful waht you ask for.

Monroe Burbank

April 26th, 2010
8:39 am

I’m still trying to get my arms around this new-found love and respect for the constitution by conservatives and convervative groups like this teabag thing. “Honor the Constitution” seems to be their saying of the week. I can’t imagine a conservative just waking up one day and proclaiming “Today I’m going to start honoring the constitution!”

Constitution honorers know that every card carrying member of the ACLU is their best friend. After all, the ACLU’s whole purpose in life is to defend the constitution. Constitution honorers will fight to their dying breath to keep prayer out of public schools. Seeing religious symbols on state or federal property, like a nativity scene on the front lawn of a courthouse, really rubs them them wrong way.

Now, all of that said. Will every conservative who still wants to honor the constitution raise your hand. That’s what I thought.

Sam ( The Cool 1 )

April 26th, 2010
8:40 am

Some trust in the Army,Navy, Marines,Coast Guard, and Air Force. Some of us also trust in God,the Bible,Church,Charity and Prayer Force.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
8:47 am

September 19 is “Talk Like a Pirate Day”. 9/11 is “National Day of Service”, and the third Sunday in July is the “National Ice Cream Day”. So where’s the outrage? The National Day of Prayer is our constitutional right. Those opposed to it forget that this country was founded so that people could practice their religion freely.

Tyler Durden

April 26th, 2010
8:51 am

Arguing with Conservatives is like arguing with roadkill. It never leads anywhere, and all that will happen is you end up smelling like them, which is what they wanted all along.

Ideology: replacing conscious thought in the Right since the dark ages…

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
8:53 am

And the Constitution does not declare us a religion free country, as Tim suggests. If you would read the Constitution and quit parroting what “everyone” says, the amendment prohibits the making of any law “respecting an establishment of religion”, impeding the free exercise of religion, infringing on the freedom of speech, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. So how do you defend banning a day of prayer based on the first amendment?

Rightfielder

April 26th, 2010
8:55 am

I admire Dr. Franklin Graham very much, but if it’s my intention to lead a group to pray for our nation, I would ask someone else. Unfortunately these Days of Prayer are more about public relations than prayer. Jesus said we should go into our closets to pray, not the onto the national stage.

OS

April 26th, 2010
9:00 am

Isn’t religion a private matter? Isn’t prayer a moment of reflection between a person and their deity? Didn’t Jesus preach against the Pharisees who insisted on praying loudly in public for everyone to see? Why is it that some Christians feel that because they subscribe to a certain belief system, the rest of us should to? Jesus taught that the way to bring others to Christianity is by living as a Christian, not telling everyone how THEY should live.

Christianity isn’t the problem. It’s the warped view of the faith by some of its so-called believers who believe they should dictate how everyone else lives. Government should be free from religion, period. National day of prayer, “under God” in the pledge, and yes, let’s take it off the money too. Perhaps some of us don’t trust in God? Better still, what happens when Christian God is in the minority? I must only assume you people defending the national day of prayer wouldn’t mind praying on a rug facing Mecca if Muslims one day find themselves in the majority.

att

April 26th, 2010
9:04 am

I think the “anti-prayer” movement has less to do with the aversion to prayer as it does the aversion to government sponsored and paid-for events (which would include the Pentagon breakfast) having someone like Franklin Graham to lead the prayer and pray openly over those as a Christian (and one who professes to believe that those who practice Islam are purveyors of the devil) at that breakfast when, if what you say is accurate, people of many faiths are invited to the event. I have no problem having government sponsored events begin with a moment of silence so everyone at the event (and whose tax dollars assisted in the payment for the event and or the place where it is being held regardless of their religious beliefs) can pray to the God of their choice, or merely contemplate their navels should they have no belief system. However, if I am Jewish, Islam, Buddhist, Shinto or of some other (or no) faith, I should not have to be proselytized to by someone from the purported “majority” Christian religion who prays to a God through Jesus Christ. I am a practicing Christian, by the way. I believe in Christ’s exhortations to show our love and faith in him through loving God and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 25:31-46). There is more than one way to “spread the good news” of the resurrection. Feed the homeless, clothe the naked, help and support the oppressed, care for the dying, visit the imprisoned. Think Mother Teresa. She didn’t proselytize. She cared for the sick, dying and the poor as Christ has asked us to do in his name. Ramming one religion’s particular belief structure down the throats of others who do not share that belief is only going to cause dissension, not evoke love and fellowship. It was also the intent of James Madison, who wrote the Bill of Rights and penned the First Amendment. Believe what you wish. Go to church. Teach your children at home and at the church of your choice the beliefs you wish them to have. Practice your faith as you deem fit. The First Amendment guarantees you that right, and without government interference. It also guarantees that same right to everyone else, and the right of others who do not share your believes not to be subject to them through the government, regardless of how the government is involved – whether taxpayer funds are used for time, place, or event.

The Udder Side!!!!

April 26th, 2010
9:06 am

Soooooo…..Would all of the Bible thumpers be OK if there was a National day of Prayer to say….Allah or Buddda?????

AddGunsToThisMix

April 26th, 2010
9:11 am

Quote Bob “Notwithstanding its benign nature, this day of religious infamy now sits in the crosshairs of groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State.” You just knew “Impeachable Bob” would add guns and shooting to another non-issue.

M

April 26th, 2010
9:11 am

I openly invite all the religious people to pray that every case of cancer in the world be cured on the National Day of Prayer.

Let me know how it works out.

JLD

April 26th, 2010
9:12 am

Georgia—-the state of hypocracy, I’m so tired of the Southern “do as I say, not as I do mentality.

John K

April 26th, 2010
9:13 am

It’s sad, that our churches and the religious home life of our citizens is so weak, that the only way people can pray anymore is by national proclamation!

The real issue is, the people for it, are looking to get their reward here on earth. Either they can be looked at so amazingly devout, or modern day martyrs because others suggest they convene with their God in private, as he himself suggested.

And Bob, just drop that Libertarian BS once and for all.

iRun

April 26th, 2010
9:14 am

Do you people have sex in public?

Why in the world would you want to do something so very personal and so very intimate and so very revealing and primal in front of everyone or WITH everyone?

And prayer is even more so.

I don’t want to pray with you if I don’t know you. I dont’ want to see you pray. If you’re an exhibitionist then I guess you need to pray in full exposure every now and then, but please don’t make it a holiday.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

April 26th, 2010
9:14 am

Looks like the Obama-expulsion of Dr. Franklin Graham from the military’s celebration of the”national day of prayer” may be a topic here today. I would agree with those who say Dr. Graham’s comments were hurtful; I would disagree with those who say his comments were untruthful. Sometimes you have to call evil by its name, as a form of exorcism. Surely we would all wish that the good Muslims of the world would exorcise the evil in their midst.

iRun

April 26th, 2010
9:19 am

Wait…*Noah* talks about the nation being a bunch of pansies (rhymes with wussies) and then in the same breath mentions God?

Really?

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
9:20 am

“Soooooo…..Would all of the Bible thumpers be OK if there was a National day of Prayer to say….Allah or Buddda?????”

If you haven’t noticed, the National Day of Prayer is for ALL religions.

TINSTAAFL

April 26th, 2010
9:22 am

TnGelding

Are you and everybody who uses Matthew 6:5-6 as an argument against the national day of prayer that dumb? Are you really that much of an intellectual moron that you can’t grasp the actual meaning of those two verses? Are you really blinded so much by your seething hate for everything non-secular that you shut off the majority of the synapses within your brains to come to such a stupid conclusion?
That verse is about calling the Pharisees out for false piety. It is not a literal command that you should never pray in public or in groups. If that were the meaning, then every pastor or priest would be sinning on Sunday as they lead the congregation in prayer. So once again, are you really that stupid? It’s guarding agains the kinds of public prayer the pharisees gave. A pharisee would stand in a public square and begin praying for all to hear: “Thank you God, that I am not a sinner like all of these people around me.” False-piety. Leading others in prayer and worship is not forbidden whatsoever in the bible.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
9:26 am

TINSTAAFL: Well said. Those who quote those verses are parroting what everybody says, obviously never having read the original scripture verses in context. Jesus was not at all saying one should not pray in public, but was talking about those who publicly prayed so that their peers would think they were pious and righteous.

iRun

April 26th, 2010
9:30 am

No, Gracie, TINSTAAFL is not well said. He/she was terribly nasty. Way to go. Call people dumb/stupid/moronic while defending your faith.

FAIL.

The Udder Side!!!!

April 26th, 2010
9:35 am

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
9:20 am

You are not being honest!!! You know as well as I do that if an Iman stood on the National mall and Prayed to Allah, the bible beaters on the right would loose their ever loving minds!!!!!

Splavistic

April 26th, 2010
9:36 am

Yeah, so if a satanist was to hold a ritualistic ‘prayer’ so that everyone else had to hear it, would that be ok with you, Bobby?

TINSTAAFL

April 26th, 2010
9:38 am

iRun

No. Asking whether he’s stupid is a completely legitimate question. I completely fail to understand how somebody could so obviously take verses out of context, and read so much into them as to make something like pastors leading prayer sinful. Either he is deliberately twisting scripture for his own purposes, or he is an unfortunate moron. If it’s the latter, perhaps he should refrain from blogging.

M

April 26th, 2010
9:40 am

It’s always amusing to see people say that certain bible quotes were ONLY intended for the people standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF Jesus, while other verses so OBVIOUSLY pertain to everyone.

DavidEm

April 26th, 2010
9:44 am

Yes! A Government-sponsored Day of Mystical Begging.

(I love the writer who threatened a KATRINA if we don’t.)

Bubba

April 26th, 2010
9:45 am

The Udder Side!!!!

April 26th, 2010
9:06 am

Soooooo…..Would all of the Bible thumpers be OK if there was a National day of Prayer to say….Allah or Buddda?????

LOL! There already is. National Day of Prayer is nondenominational.