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

John K

April 26th, 2010
9:45 am

You’re right M, they’re all salad bar Christians, although they won’t admit it.

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
9:47 am

Bob, what part of “…Admittedly, National Prayer Day does have a connection to the federal government…” is subject to wiggle room. You blather on and on about the every-growing, ever-encroaching nanny state, but you’ll allow Big Government a Mulligan when it comes to prayer and religion? Prayer is perhaps the most PRIVATE of issues (even more than homosexual in the military or warrantless searches of laptops). Prayer should remain in the home and in the church, temple, synagogue or Wiccan circle of rocks.

John K

April 26th, 2010
9:49 am

But neo-Carlinist, if they’re not out there showing everyone how devout they are, how would anyone know? Apparently convening privately with God is not enough, we all need to see it.

iRun

April 26th, 2010
9:51 am

TINSTAAFL, you must think I’m stupid if you think I will buy your argument.

Admit it…you were busted behaving like a human, letting the darker side of your (ours, all) human nature to control you, when you felt the very thing you use to make you a better human was being threatened. And you know in doing so you’ve sullied it yourself, more so than those you fight.

You may believe one thing about that verse and TN may believe another. Neither of you really know the truth. You weren’t there. You only have your beliefs, your faith, to sustain you. And it should sustain you alone. You cannot use it to sustain itself.

Chris Broe

April 26th, 2010
9:52 am

Why stop with banning national prayer? Why not scrutinize the easily-crashed white house dinner party’s menu for angel food cake?

Seriously, there’s nothing to say about the NDOP that doesn’t make one sound like a bigot, (or an idiot as I so clearly demonstrated above). It’s like when diners make a big production out of saying grace in restaurants afore they eats. A television show called the Waltons depicted a family holding hands during grace. Nuns don’t even do that in restaurants, yet some staunch catholics will, and then give you the devil if you object. If there was ever a better reason for the existence of lemon meringue pie…….

They say everybody prays in a foxhole. Many people consider 911’s Ground Zero to be a national cathedral. Some folks think that worship is a vital and natural part of human nature, like breathing. The ten commandments are a civil code as well as a moral guideline. Theologists now think that Christ didn’t write the famous “Lords Prayer”, that some poetic genius wrote it in the second century. Thus, if prayer afficianados can’t agree on what constitutes a prayer, then how can sectarian-derived political parties?

The inscription on our money, “in God we trust”, is supposedly there for the poetic merit. (Maybe Christ wrote THAT one). If there is a fiscal message then perhaps it suggests that you better pay your damn bills if you want credit, because God wont pay them for you. or something. Maybe it’s like that old joke, “in God we trust….all others pay cash.”

Why don’t we start another left-right feud over prayer? At least we’ll know who the heretics are. Me? I’ll pray for financial reform to protect us from the Goldman Sach-rilegious Right and hope they get some kind of reincarnative retribution during upcoming life cycles…….

Now it’s on to Arizona and we’ll pray for retribution there……..

Stick to the FACTS

April 26th, 2010
9:56 am

Every religious group has their own customs. But in America, only Christian beliefs are being forced on the rest of us. Christians would never stand for a Muslim Day of Prayer or Atheists Day.

Why do they think it’s OK to force others to accept their customs or even respect them if they discriminate against the non-believers? If you don’t think it’s forced – Try objecting to these group prayers and see how quick you’re out of the group, the school or even a job.

John K

April 26th, 2010
10:01 am

I see no problem with someone saying Grace at a restaurant. If they don’t disturb any other customer, then whatever.

It’s the action of some Christians, who tend to feel they have the default belief everyone else must follow. What we are seeing more of, is a temper tantrum by some in the majority who can’t stand it that those with other beliefs are finally speaking up. The Constitution protects all, not the majority.

TINSTAAFL

April 26th, 2010
10:02 am

iRun

I’ll admit that the completely uneducated things that non-Christians repeatedly try to pull off deeply angers me. When people try to cherry pick scripture, disregard all context, and then twist it to suit their earthly needs, that angers me. Pray (pun intended) tell, why is it a bad thing that liars anger me?

You then say, “You may believe one thing about that verse and TN may believe another. Neither of you really know the truth. You weren’t there. You only have your beliefs, your faith, to sustain you. And it should sustain you alone. You cannot use it to sustain itself.”

See, and that is where you are wrong, and TnGelding is a liar. I sure wasn’t there, but I can easily infer meaning through context. Here is the verse he cited including the context.

1″Beware of(A) practicing your righteousness before other people in order(B) to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2(C) “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may(D) be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have(E) received their reward. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret.(F) And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5″And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love(G) to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.(H) Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray,(I) go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.(J) And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7″And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as(K) the Gentiles do, for(L) they think that they will be heard(M) for their many words. 8Do not be like them,(N) for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Using the context of the verses in question, it is plainly clear that the behavior being admonished is false piety to suit your own needs. Once again, do you really think that all pastors and priests are sinners for leading prayer? TnGelding is a liar, and you’re uncomfortable with the fact that I called him out on it.

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
10:03 am

“But in America, only Christian beliefs are being forced on the rest of us.”

To you and others on here thinking something is “forced” – who’s holding a gun to your head? I would really like to know so I can call the proper authorities for you since you can’t do it yourself.

M

April 26th, 2010
10:08 am

TINSTAAFL,

Are you trying to help or hurt your cause?

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
10:12 am

oh, and methinks Bob may actually be a double agent (a secularist in praying man’s clothing). he begins his missive by loosley equating an ancient scottish nursery rhyme with prayer. hmmph? maybe he’s right. we can have a National Day of Nursery Rhymes next.

Peter Haskett

April 26th, 2010
10:14 am

If any public function is open with a prayer, then my 1st amendment rights are violated. The others who bow and pray put peer pressure on the others who prefer to keep religion a private matter. That peer pressure is all the violation needed. This includes sessions of Congress. If Washington began the 1st session with prayer it was political expediency and illustrates that not everyone was accepting of the 1st amendment more than it does Washington’s religiousness. Here’s hoping NDoP is determined unconstitutional and it continues with the pledge of allegiance. Get your deity out of our national polity! If you want to pray, do it at church.

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
10:16 am

“If any public function is open with a prayer, then my 1st amendment rights are violated.”

Oh my goodness…another one. Please answer my 10:03 please. If you don’t want to bow your head and close your eyes, then don’t. Good grief people…..

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
10:19 am

Peter: Why do your rights supersede mine to practice my faith openly and freely and without impediment — the very reason the Pilgrims sailed the ocean blue and founded this new nation?

iRun

April 26th, 2010
10:21 am

TINSTAAFL – it’s Scripture. So it was written long ago by men who are long dead and who spoke a different language. It’s been re-written and translated several times. We do not know the original words or intent.

We interpret the words as they make sense to us. To you they clearly mean that public prayer is okay so long as it’s sincerely prayer and not false piety. To TN he sees it differntly, though I cannot speak for him as to what it means for him.

Full disclosure: I am a sort-of deist/agnostic, myself, so I am not Christian or even a believer in any traditional religion and I am not at all compelled by man-made and man-led faith. I commune with my faith mostly when I am out running a long, long run. Nothing like dealing with demons at mile 30 when you really, really want to stop.

But, hey, it works for me. I would never tell you, or anyone else, that the only path to enlightenment/Heaven/God/etc is to run 30 miles. It works for ME.

iRun

April 26th, 2010
10:25 am

Peadawg – stop with the gun to the head argument. Coercion takes many forms…and you know it.

The point is, and you know it, that Americans should proudly support individual freedoms, not mob rule. This sort of thing is not it. Especially telling people to shut up about it.

You should always feel free to pray. But it should never be institutionalized in government.

As I asked earlier? Do you have sex in public?

The Udder Side!!!!

April 26th, 2010
10:27 am

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
10:16 am

Tell us… How long would it take you to get to the school if the Local football game was opened by a prayer from a satinist and how much hell would you raise???? ( Pun intended)

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
10:27 am

“Peadawg – stop with the gun to the head argument.”

Then you and others stop saying your forced when you’re not.

“Do you have sex in public?”

No, that’s public indecency if I’m not mistaken and it’s against the law. You want to outlaw public prayer? Good luck!

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
10:28 am

“Tell us… How long would it take you to get to the school if the Local football game was opened by a prayer from a satinist and how much hell would you raise???? ( Pun intended)”

I’d go for the football game which is a great american past-time and not participate in the prayer if don’t want to. Is that so hard? Good grief.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
10:31 am

iRun: You are thoughtful and intelligent and well-spoken. I say this with all the love I can muster for someone I do not know. If you would seriously research the Bible by taking a non-denominational Bible study, you would be amazed to find how much you do not understand, and how much of it makes an incredible amount of sense once you’ve studied it. May I recommend bsfinternational.org — a serious study for serious people.

TINSTAAFL

April 26th, 2010
10:34 am

iRun

Hey, if that works for you all power to ya. It’s no business of mine. But I’m not arguing that TnGelding even sees his view as an interpretation. He picked two verses completely out of context of scripture, and then twisted them towards his own means. Either through maliciousness or ignorance of the surrounding context, he completely ignored clarifying context set around those verses. That isn’t a view, it’s lying by omission.

iRun

April 26th, 2010
10:38 am

Gracie, thank you for your kind words and the suggestion. I should mention that I am not stranger to organized faiths or the Bible. I grew up in a family that did, and still does, closely practice and study their faith. However, I abandoned it some years ago. I did not decide it was bupkus, just not for me. And not for others, apparently. But it’s for some, and that’s fine, and it should be available to those who need it or want it. But not for me.

Peadawg – you’re avoiding a real discussion. You pretend you don’t know what someone means so you won’t have to talk about it. I tried to engage you but you won’t capitulate. Realize, though, that for you it means you are increasingly shouting into a dark, empty room.

The Udder Side!!!!

April 26th, 2010
10:41 am

iRun

April 26th, 2010
10:38 am

Very well put…..

iRun

April 26th, 2010
10:42 am

TINSTAAFL – we will have to agree to disagree. Until TN comes back to defend his stance I cannot address it further. And it never was my place to do so. I took exception to your approach given the topic.

I still think you are taking your stance as a “fact” or a “truth” when it’s not possible to do so with Scripture, being what it is. And that does make it hard to form a discussion with people who believe differently.

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
10:45 am

“Peadawg – you’re avoiding a real discussion”

I answered your question, “Do you have sex in public”. You don’t like my answer so you insult me. Who’s avoiding here? How about you answer my question as I answered yours? Do you want to outlaw public prayer?

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
10:48 am

iRun: I hear ya. I’m not a fan of denominations myself. But I would suspect that you, as most of us were, introduced and familiarized with the Bible in Sunday School where you were taught what it said — not taught how to study it for yourself AS AN ADULT to determine what it says. I found that I carried around a whole lot of misconceptions and mischaracterizations that I wasn’t sure where they came from.

dylandawg

April 26th, 2010
10:52 am

The gun to the head arguement is silly. Calling things voluntary is inaccurate. . In the wrong setting with your job, social life, academic standing on the line….voluntary is not the word I would use. It is not hard to imagine situations where this is true.

iRun

April 26th, 2010
10:53 am

Peadawg – you are still avoiding the real discussion by pruning the branches off the trees.

But I will bite one more time…

Do I want to outlaw public prayer?

What does that mean? I’m not sure what you mean by it but I certainly do not want prayer institutionalized. Individuals should be free to pray, certainly, and whereever they want. Despite my personal opinion that prayer, like sex, is extremely private and intimate and I am uncomfortable watching anyone engage in either….depsite this if someone wants to pray in public then no law should prevent them.

But I am against prayer being institutionalized, mandated, or even authorized and sanctioned by my government and the individuals who we hire to run it.

No prayer in public institutions by public officials representing them.

M

April 26th, 2010
10:57 am

I’ve studied the Bible. Too much rape, murder, genocide, and out-and-out contradiction to be taken seriously. A few nuggets of wisdom, to be sure (Do unto others…), but the Bible doesn’t have a monopoly on those.

Peadawg

April 26th, 2010
10:59 am

” then no law should prevent them.”

Then stop comparing sex and prayer.

iRun

April 26th, 2010
11:04 am

Peadawg – I don’t understand what you mean by your last post.

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE

April 26th, 2010
11:07 am

THERE IS A PRAYER EVERY DAY FOR COMBAT MISSIONS….PRAY FOR THE SAFETY OF OUR TROOPS…….LIBERALs………..Geeeeeeeeeeet A life……GET A LIFE…

Elephant Whip

April 26th, 2010
11:07 am

As for Jesus’ discussion of prayer in public, here’s another thing to consider in interpreting his message as it may apply today.

Jesus was referring to public prayer within a theocratic society governed by the Sanhedrin, which was the civil governing body working under the authority of the high priest of the Temple. Now, if Jesus was telling someone not to pray publicly (to show off praying skills and wealthy donations) within a completely theocratic, homogenous socio-religious culture, how should his message be read in a pluralistic society with a government purposefully separated from any theological (or anti-theological) positions?

Jesus obviously was not talking about prayer within the synagogue, because he participated in synagogue activities himself (and stirred up a ruckus in his hometown with one of his scriptural readings), so perhaps he was referring to politically minded prayer (the Pharisees were one party within the Sandhedrin and believed in prayer and supernatural things, the other party, the Sadduccees did not believe in the supernatural as much) in Jerusalem.

Just something to think about in reflecting on the nature of the National Day of Prayer as it relates to Jesus’ sermon.

Another thing: to Peadawg and those sharing his view: you would honestly sit there and let a Muslim cleric lead National Day of Prayer with a prayer toward Mecca prayed in Arabic? I don’t think so. Were Islam the majority’s religion in this country, you all would be leading an armed rebellion.

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE

April 26th, 2010
11:09 am

LIBERALs do offer amusung comments…….intellectually void…..but amusing…like a circus clown

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE

April 26th, 2010
11:11 am

LIBERALs ARE COURT CLOWNs…….LIBERALs are idiots..

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
11:12 am

M, but you’re missing the point. Yes, there are accounts of rape, murder and other unsavory acts and unlikeable people recounted for us in the Bible. But the point of these accounts is to show (a) that no one is beyond redemption or counted as unlovable by God and/or (b) denying and disobeying God does have consequences. How encouraging to know that if God can forgive and then use a murderer for something amazingly good, that then He can certainly forgive and use me, too! And although this venue is not the place for a Bible study, truly, there are no contradictions contained if you understand the context of the account being read.

Aquagirl

April 26th, 2010
11:17 am

The All-American Combat Prayer: “Dear Jesus, let me blast that other guy’s head clean off his shoulders without him returning the favor. Amen.”

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
11:20 am

Peadawg, your position is weak. IF you offer people the “right” to no pray, then why does the government need to endorse the process (with its own day, no less)? I say, if you’re hanging out in the U.S. Capitol, or the Pentagon, or the White House, or wherever; pray if you want to pray, or remain silent if you want to remain silent. This is the true essence of the First Amendment and the establishment clause. namely, that people who are inclined to pray do not need the permission of the Federal Government. Nor should elected officials or bureacrats WASTE time engaged in rituals, which are not, as Bob notes, related to the operation or administration of the government.

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
11:24 am

Christian Conservative, you are neither

kdjg

April 26th, 2010
11:26 am

the government is trying to expand on the cradle to grave program by promising you eternal life if you pray.

Jefferson

April 26th, 2010
11:26 am

Long as it goes my way.

M

April 26th, 2010
11:27 am

Gracie,

God was DOING the murdering and ordering the rape.

kdjg

April 26th, 2010
11:29 am

M – there is no passage in the bible that contradicts another passage.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
11:35 am

M, you still misunderstand. God judges evil, and He never ordered a rape. Please show me verse.

Rational Person

April 26th, 2010
11:38 am

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.

——————-

Well, maybe not a gun, but kids in school have been beaten up by their little Christian classmates for not joining in on a prayer. When I was in a public high school, we had our dose of Southern Baptist doctrine on the PA system every morning, and there was nothing voluntary about it.

Jefferson said a lot of things about a wall between church and state, but I guess righties only like old TJ when he talks about the right to bear arms.

Rational Person

April 26th, 2010
11:41 am

kdjg
April 26th, 2010
11:29 am

M – there is no passage in the bible that contradicts another passage.

——————

Genesis gives two slightly different versions of the creation myth.

When Henry VIII wanted to marry Catherine of Aragon, he found a Bible verse that said it was a man’s duty to marry his brother’s widow. When he wanted to dump her and marry Anne Boleyn, he found another verse saying that it was a horrible sin to do that.

Just two examples.

Diogenes

April 26th, 2010
11:42 am

Mr Barr,

You ask the question “Why are the [sic.]these First Amendment zealots so hot under the clerical collar about National Prayer Day?” I would think the answer should be obvious even to you. Religion has infiltrated government to such a degree that government can no longer serve its proper function of preventing the strong from abusing the weak. Eliminating National Prayer Day and the National Prayer Breakfast would be mere reminders that our government is secular and needs to remain so for the benefit of all the people.

Rational Person

April 26th, 2010
11:46 am

Gracie
April 26th, 2010
11:35 am

M, you still misunderstand. God judges evil, and He never ordered a rape. Please show me verse.

——————

If not rape, how about mass murder?

1 Samuel 15:2-3: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

Even the donkeys.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
11:47 am

RP — I think you’re contradicting yourself in trying to show a contradiction. The operative words in your remarks are “widow” and “dump her”.

Rational Person

April 26th, 2010
11:51 am

Gracie, what you’re saying here makes no sense whatever.