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

Marcos

April 26th, 2010
11:59 am

The far right extremists in this country have perverted the true tenets of Christianity. God weeps at your hypocrisy and hatred.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
12:09 pm

Sorry, RP. It made perfect sense to me, LOL. What I meant to say is that God had a provision for the continuation of the family lines in Israel, and that if a man died leaving his wife childless, his brother was obliged to continue the family line for the deceased. Quite a different matter from dumping one’s wife in favor of another, as you indicated with King Henry and Anne Boleyn.

And the Amalekites were evil people. God is perfectly qualified to judge evil as He sees fit. In His omniscience, He knows unregenerate evil when He sees it.

Gator Joe

April 26th, 2010
12:14 pm

Bob:
I don’t hear any similar complaints when, for example, the NRA people protest any reasonable restriction on the use and possesion of firearms. They, like the “Strict Separation of Church and State” people, fear any government involement will lead to extreme government involvement. In both cases, some of the concern is unfounded.

The Udder Side!!!!

April 26th, 2010
12:37 pm

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
12:09 pm

So the women, children and even the donkeys were evil????

JTex

April 26th, 2010
12:49 pm

I would find Mr. Barr’s plea for acceptance more meaningful were it not for his active attempts to repress the practice of religions he finds distasteful by members of the Armed Services. It is more than mildly hypocritical to accuse the “Prayer Police” of being religiously intolerant when the person making the accusation is, himself, religiously intolerant.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
12:53 pm

Udder Side: Well, evil is certainly not confined to grown men. God commanded them to purge evil from the land, and purge they certainly did.

But as to little children and donkeys, I agree with you that it sounds odd and severe, and I can’t explain it. I am certainly no theologian or expert in any of this, and I would have to defer to someone wiser than I am. I do know that I believe that my God is always fair, always just, always holy, and always knows what is needed. I also know that His ways are not my ways. If I could understand God, then I’d be God and not Him. Some things we just can’t comprehend.

The Udder Side!!!!

April 26th, 2010
1:01 pm

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
12:53 pm

I fully respect and understand your position, and that kind of leads me to my original question…why is it that Christians want and expect everyone to respect and not condem them for their beliefs, but they find it sooooo hard to acknowledge that respect the fact that some others don’t believe the same things ( or in some cases, nothing at all)

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
1:01 pm

say “good night Gracie”. the State of Israel was formed in 1948. there was no “Israel” when the urban myth to which you refer originated. the Old Testament itself was passed on from generation to generation for hundreds of years before it was documented (Dead Sea Scrolls), and even then, what you or anybody else reads NOW, has been sliced, diced, edited and enhanced to suit the political whims of whomever was presenting it as “Gospel” (pun intended). EVERY god “had a plan” and surprisingly enough, these plans have human fingerprints all over them.

Thomas

April 26th, 2010
1:08 pm

I think I’ll pray for all of you.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
1:11 pm

Neo: The people, the 12 children and subsequent ancestors of the man named Israel, are called Israel, not the political creation of a State of Israel. I don’t believe any of it is an urban myth or sliced or diced or edited. In fact, you would be amazed at how much the new translations are faithful to the original texts, even though our abilities at translating ancient languages has improved significantly over the years. We may decide that there’s a more accurate or equivalent word as our abilities at translating improve.

Udder Side: Actually, I don’t find it hard at all to understand that everyone does not believe or want to believe the same things I do, and that may be a secular exaggeration of what true Christians desire for people they know. A very pale analogy would be that if I discovered I could cut my grocery bill by three-fourths by using a certain couponing system, my excitement and desire to help others would cause me to be very vocal about sharing how awesome it is. You don’t have to use my couponing system. But you sure would love it if you did, I just know it!

Peter Haskett

April 26th, 2010
1:13 pm

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Just to clarify to those who wish to inject your christianism onto others. If a session of Congress starts off with a prayer, then by conduct, Congress is legislating a state sponsored religion. Furthermore, if the leader of said prayer and participants therein perform the ritualistic gestures of prayer while someone else chooses not to, then the person who chooses not to might be judged as not ascribing to Congress’ religion. The result could be giving the non-participants’ opinions less credibility, impeding their jurisdictions’ equal representation, but most importantly, prohibiting that person from from freely exercising his/her religion. Peer pressure is all that is needed to prohibit one from freely practicing his/her religion. If one feels compelled to conform to the group or be ignored, chastised, or judged by the group, then his/her free exercise of religion has been violated.

Your bible gives you an international day of prayer every week. Why not leave well enough alone?

David Patton

April 26th, 2010
1:38 pm

All the people running around screaming about separation of church and state need to read their history books. Then they will discover that what the separation of church and state does is prohibit the establishment of a single, government-mandated religion to the exclusion of all other religions. It is perfectly legal to have a National Day of Prayer to encourage people of ALL religions to pray, or to have a Nativity scene, or any other display commemorating a religious event, regardless of the religion.

Noah

April 26th, 2010
1:48 pm

iRun – Sorry I mis-typed. I meant to say damn pansies (rhymes with wussies). The concept is over your pay grade so don’t try and figure it out. God Bless you.

Kev

April 26th, 2010
1:51 pm

If people want a National Day of Prayer, prayer before sessions of Congress, prayer in public schools, etc…, fine. Then let’s start taxing churches and see how fast they start screaming about the separation of church and state.

The Udder Side!!!!

April 26th, 2010
1:52 pm

David Patton

April 26th, 2010
1:38 pm

So if a self described member of the taliban wanted to have a prayer vigil on the state capitol lawn, You would be Ok with that????

iRun

April 26th, 2010
2:02 pm

Noah – is there a point to being so snarky? If the concept is “above my pay grade” then are you implying that it’s not above yours and that makes you…what?

M

April 26th, 2010
2:15 pm

When given the proof, it helps to be able to say, “I don’t understand that, but I’m sure God had a reason for it.”

Even if we’re talking about killing donkeys, murdering the first-born, using bears to kill youths that made fun of someone’s baldness, etc.

It all makes perfect sense until it doesn’t, and then it’s not supposed to. TA-DA

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
2:23 pm

And in some cases, we’re told not to cast our pearls before swine . . . I suppose the modern-day equivalent would be: Never try to teach a pig to sing. It doesn’t work, and it only annoys the pig.”

Some believe, some never will. And God knows which are which.

iRun

April 26th, 2010
2:36 pm

Gracie, my question would be….if God does know, does he really care? Does he have the human emotion of anger or disappointment? Or is he even paying attention?

M

April 26th, 2010
2:41 pm

Oh, and as far as contradictions go, how about the genealogy of Jesus? Compare Matthew vs. Luke.

Also, take a look at EXACTLY who was present at the tomb when it was discovered that Jesus wasn’t there. How many angels were there? How many disciples? Which disciples? Look at each of the four Gospels.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
2:51 pm

iRun, yes, He absolutely cares, absolutely knows and He is absolutely paying attention to all of us. He does experience anger . . . the emotion of anger in and of itself is not a sin, but the action that follows the emotion is where the sin is. We humans act in a sinful way when we’re angry, but He does not.

The kind of cliche answer is that God has given us free will to choose Him or not to choose Him, and He will not interfere with our free will. I like the way my mentor used to say it, God honors our choice. I don’t know how to answer about if He feels disappointment, because the emotion of disappointment implies that He didn’t know to begin with, and since He does know, I don’t know if disappointment is the right word. Grief or sadness maybe a better word.

I think again that a very pale analogy is when we call Him “Our Father Who Art In Heaven” and we think of Him as our father. True that may be, but I suspect that we use the word “father” because we can’t comprehend beyond that term. Maybe no term exists in human language. But we can relate to the word father, and so as a father, He cares, He knows, He pays attention, He gets angry, sad, and grieves when we make stupid choices. As every parent knows, sometimes you have to let your kids go and make their own mistakes, because we can’t force them to do anything. But we love our children with every fiber of our being, and He loves us.

The kind of funny thing is, we as a society, tend to think of Him as a cosmic genie or divine coke machine. When the going gets tough, we pop in a prayer and push the right button and expect our coke to come out or our prayer to be answered in the way we want. That is not who He is. What kind of parent would we be if we let our kids have everything they asked for when they asked for it?

I wish you all knew the peace that comes from knowing Him.

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
2:54 pm

Gracie, your take on history may be accurate, but your gammar give you away. you used the the word “in” (preposition). you wrote; “…God had a provision for the continuation of the family lines in Israel…” the correct myth would read; “…continuation of the family lines OF Israel…” and with all due respect, how can you possibly comment on the veracity or accuracy of the translations of ancient texts? as Bob pointed out, the lion’s share of Bible is akin to a fairy tale or nursery rhyme (think Washington chopping down a cherry tree, the Warren Commission, or WMDs and Iraq linked to 9/11).

Rockerbabe

April 26th, 2010
3:01 pm

I always thought that “prayer day” was the sabbeth day. Now we have to have a national prayer day? Just an excuse to engage in politics under the disguise of religion.

M

April 26th, 2010
3:16 pm

Gracie,

I wish you knew the peace that comes from letting go of childish superstition. And I’m not saying this to be insulting. The guilt that is removed from one’s life is staggering.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
3:21 pm

Okay, Neo, I’ll concede a typo or poor grammar. But whether the right word is “in” “of” “on”, I still do not believe anything contained in the Bible is a fairy tale or a myth.

As to the veracity of ancient texts, I defer to the linguistic and translation experts whose writings I’ve read comparing the original texts to several translations. The main message of the Bible has not changed in 2010 years.

But, for example, in Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, the speaker is identified as the “Preacher” in the King James or the “Teacher” in the NIV, and he says that everything is “meaningless” in the NIV translation. In the King James and New American Standard, the word is rendered “vanity”. In God’s Word translation, the word is rendered “pointless” and the person speaking is the “spokesman” and in the Revised English Bible it is “futility”. I’m not a scholar in Hebrew, so I’ll trust those who are to find the best English equivalent. But basically, aren’t they all synonyms?

Again, there are some of us who believe, and some folks that never will. Funny though, when those who do not believe are at the lowest point of their entire life with no hope whatsoever, they want God Whom they’ve never believed in, to help them out?

Left Libertarian

April 26th, 2010
3:31 pm

Wow, this may be the first time besides the Defense of Marriage Act and the initial PATRIOT Act vote that Bob Barr has been wrong.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
3:40 pm

M, I’m not insulted and as a believer, I have no guilt or shame. Jesus died on the cross to remove my sin, my guilt and shame.

M

April 26th, 2010
3:43 pm

…because a blood god demands blood sacrifices. But he’s made out of love.

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
3:45 pm

there is a third group, Gracie; those who once believed and no longer believe. some refer to this group by it;’s secular name; “rational”. I am sorry if I need just a bit more proof before I sign off on talking snakes, burning bushes, water turned to wine, and the planet being re-populated by animals (and humans) on a boat. 2,000 years from now in the unlikely event humans still exist, scholars and experts will “translate” the worls of Dickens, Tolstoy, Hemmingway, et al and while they may all agree on the translation, their expertise will not turn fiction to fact.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
3:53 pm

Neo, I’m very sorry that something happened to cause you to turn away from your belief.

M, it is very unlikely that I can ever provide enough information for you to change your mind. God is holy above all things, He cannot tolerate sin. The wages of sin is death, it is only by his grace that any of us are still alive. It is only by His grace that he allows substitute sacrifices. Period. End of story.

I’m not educated enough or eloquent enough in speech to convince you, and I’m not trying to. I am only giving you an answer for my faith.

Believe it or not, your choice.

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
4:03 pm

Gracie, I did not “turn away” from my belief; I grew up. I became more educated. I became a more critical thinker. I believe in “faith”. I simply do not believe in gods. you said it yourself; “…I am not educated enough…” nor was I when I drank the Kool-Aid, which is ironic, as the very expression originates from Jonestown/Guyana; where a “Christian” convinced hundreds of “uneducated” followers to drink cyanide. prayer/meditation is a wonderful and useful endeavor. I just don’t believe there should be a “national day of prayer” anymore than there should be a “national don’t eat meat on Friday day” or a “national do not drink” day. one’s faith or the decision to pray or not to pray is deeply personal, and it shouldn’t be confused with the ability to recite literature “exactly” as it was written. I can recite the theme song to Gilligan’s Island, but it doesn’t make it the word of god.

No More Progressives!

April 26th, 2010
4:30 pm

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

What did you say when Obama hosted the National Day of Muslim Prayer at the Nations Capital recently?

PS: That garbage about the 1st Amendment. You need to read it again.

No More Progressives!

April 26th, 2010
4:33 pm

The Udder Side!!!!

April 26th, 2010
1:52 pm

So if a self described member of the taliban wanted to have a prayer vigil on the state capitol lawn, You would be Ok with that????

I guess so. See above.

ND

April 26th, 2010
4:37 pm

It is sad and disappointing that a libertarian like you, who otherwise is one of the strongest voices against government intrusion into our lives, would defend the government sanctioning religious observances of any kind. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” I realize National Prayer Day is not a law, but the government endorsing such an event is improper nevertheless.

JTex

April 26th, 2010
4:40 pm

I believe the event you’re referring to is described here:

http://factcheck .org/2009/09/muslim-prayer-day-sept-25/

You’ll notice that this was not, in fact, a Federal holiday. So…you’re comparing apples and oranges. Unsurprisingly.

No More Progressives!

April 26th, 2010
4:45 pm

JTex

April 26th, 2010
4:40 pm

You’ll notice that this was not, in fact, a Federal holiday. So…you’re comparing apples and oranges. Unsurprisingly.

It was held on Federal property, and I never said it was a holiday.

Why do you condone this???

Fix-It

April 26th, 2010
4:56 pm

The people who argue against prayer seem to argue points that make no sense, they pick one line, and generally from the Old Testament, and harp on it. I have an idea look of the word faith, that may clear up what you seem not to understand.

retiredds

April 26th, 2010
5:02 pm

So I ask you Bob, what is the difference between a First Amendment zealot and a Second Amendment zealot, or a 4th Amendment zealot, or a 10th Amendment zealot, etc. Are there gradations of zealot? Is one zealot more right (or wrong) than another zealot? Is my zealotry better than your zealotry? Does my being a zealot for one Constitutional Amendment automatically make another’s zealotry myopic? Just ask’in.

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
5:35 pm

why are my posts not being displayed?

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
5:45 pm

I have just tried to post something for the third time and it has disappeared onto thin air.

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
5:46 pm

I wonder which word is being censored? will somebody from the ajc fess up?

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
7:01 pm

LOL! Neo, maybe it’s God. (just kiddin’)

frankLeeDarling

April 26th, 2010
7:17 pm

christianity is stupid

frankLeeDarling

April 26th, 2010
7:20 pm

religion is just an easy way to cop out

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
7:23 pm

let’s try again. I do not understand why certain people bemoan the government for getting into healthcare, banking, auto manufacturing, but they are OK with the goverment getting into the prayer/worship business. maybe I’ll think differently when churches start paying taxes like the rest of us – “the Blessings of Liberty” are not cheap.

No More Progressives!

April 26th, 2010
8:14 pm

frankLeeDarling

April 26th, 2010
7:20 pm
religion is just an easy way to cop out

Cop out of what?

No More Progressives!

April 26th, 2010
8:18 pm

neo-Carlinist

April 26th, 2010
7:23 pm
“the Blessings of Liberty” are not cheap.

Liberty, in and of itself, is absolutely free. The Blessings of Liberalism are what cost us, against my will, as well.

melvin polatnick

April 26th, 2010
8:31 pm

The best kept secret is that there are over 100 million Americans that are non believers. Due to the myth that only a believer has high morals most are afraid to confess their secret, but the day is not far off when a confessed non believer will become president. On that day, those that pray to a sky god will be considered insane.

No More Progressives!

April 26th, 2010
8:36 pm

melvin polatnick

April 26th, 2010
8:31 pm
but the day is not far off when a confessed non believer will become president.

That day is here, now.

Gracie

April 26th, 2010
8:42 pm

I quote from the Campaign for Working Families, End of Day Report:

“Barack Obama took a break from his vacation in Asheville, North Carolina, this weekend to visit with Billy Graham and his son Franklin Graham. The meeting between the president and one of America’s most beloved families comes just days after the Pentagon, staffed with Obama’s leftwing appointees, rescinded Franklin Graham’s speaking invitation to a National Day of Prayer event. Obama could have easily reversed that decision, but he didn’t.

“Instead, he reportedly promised that his administration would appeal a leftwing judge’s decision declaring the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. What a joke! Obama has shown hostility to the observance from the moment he entered the White House. “