“NO” TO THE DAY OF PRAYER POMP
Posted by Andrew Roman on May 7, 2009
Today is the National Day of Prayer – a day designated annually to be a call to prayer for people of all faiths in the United States. It has existed since 1952, and actually became a fixed day of observance (the first Thursday in May) in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan.
For the past eight years, under President George W. Bush, a public service has been held in the East Room of the White House commemorating the occasion. This year, however, President Barack Obama will do away with the public ceremony – the “pomp and circumstance” of it all – and sign a proclamation (as many other Presidents have done) instead.
It will, thus, be a private matter at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
This is no surprise, for a variety of reasons - not the least of which is the fact that there is no strategical advantage to it. There are no political points to be scored, power grabs to be made, or photo ops to be had with a public prayer service at the White House.
The larger problem, of course, is that the focus would be on God, not Obama.
Obviously, no one is compelled to pray (please see the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America), but being a country overwhelmingly comprised of people of faith, a national call to prayer is an American tradition, dating back to the Founding. From Thomas Jefferson, who himself attended Christian services held in the chambers of the House of Representatives, to George W. Bush and his East Room National Day of Prayer commemorations, prayer is woven into the American fabric.
The move to downplay the White House’s involvement and participation in the National Day of Prayer is, of course, applauded by some. To others, it doesn’t go far enough.
Predictably, five key words are at the heart of it all: “Separation of Church and State.”
“It’s not his job to tell people to pray,” said David Silverman, national spokesperson for the organization American Atheists..
“We are very happy he did away with the George W. Bush-era celebrations and party, but we wish he wouldn’t do it at all. … When church and state are separate, separate is separate,” he said.
Try as I might, I simply have not been able to come across the statement, press release, edict, decree, Executive Order, diktat or announcement from President Obama (or any President for that matter) telling people they had to pray. (I probably need to hone by googling skills). Perhaps I need to crack open a copy of the Athiest/English Dictionary, flip to the “Phraseology and Terminology” portion of the text and find the section that explains how “recognizing” faith and “calling” people to prayer is the same as “telling” people to pray.
There are four states, for example, that “recognize” same-sex marriage and “call” on those of us who wish to protect the traditional definition of marriage to deal with it and accept it … but I am not being forced to marry someone of the same-sex.
I actually have four words to throw back at Mr. Silverman – and mine actually appear the Constitution: “… The free exercise thereof.”
The moment Congress passes legislation declaring any one faith as an official state religion, come talk to me. Until then, relax.
No one is going to take away anyone’s Godless little play house if that’s where they want to take their toys.
White House involvement in the National Day of Prayer may be a desirable thing, but it won’t (and shouldn’t) affect things too much.
Despite numerous attempts to get a representative from the executive office to attend, “it doesn’t appear they are going to fulfill our request,” said Becky Armstrong, marketing and media manager of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
“The White House is a small part of what the national day of prayer is all about… There will be dozens of events held in our nation’s capitol and governors from all 50 states have already issued proclamations recognizing the National Day of Prayer,” Armstrong said.
“It would be belittling to those millions of people to reduce this day to merely one event not being held at the White House.”
Task Force Chairman Shirley Dobson said in a statement that she was disappointed in the “lack of participation” by the Obama administration, adding that “at this time in our country’s history, we would hope our President would recognize more fully the importance of prayer.”
And even if you choose not to pray today, God Bless you anyway.