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Editorial: Day of Prayer not worth the trouble

Published: Thursday, May 6, 2010

Updated: Thursday, May 6, 2010 23:05

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Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer. As usual, it contained a lot more controversy than it did prayers.

In April, a U.S. district court ruled that the federal law that designates a National Day of Prayer and requires an annual presidential proclamation violates the 1st Amendment's establishment clause, and is thus unconstitutional. The Obama administration changed the wording of the annual proclamation and is appealing that decision.

Then, Franklin Graham – the son of evangelist Billy Graham – became angry when he was uninvited from a National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon, saying it was "a slap in the face of all Christians." Critics had complained about Graham's invitation because of references he has made to Islam as "evil" and inferior to Judaism and Christianity.

While these events are perhaps more high profile than usual, the fact is that the National Day of Prayer is controversial every year. And rightly so.

In theory, the day is secular, but the truth of the matter is that certain religious organizations have powerful connections in Washington that make the day sectarian. According to Time Magazine, for example, the Pentagon outsources the organization of its events to the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private group headed by the wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. Anyone who thinks that Protestantism doesn't receive the majority of attention of this alleged "secular" day is misguided. 

While Obama's National Day of Prayer agenda was notably grounded in comparison to that of former President Bush, and it is likely he will ultimately win his appeal, the recent controversy makes one wonder why we need to designate a National Day of Prayer at all. Who is supposed to be benefiting? Those who choose to pray are presumably doing it more than once a year. And those who choose not too, don't need to be subject to this yearly ordeal. 

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6 comments

Anonymous
Sat May 8 2010 16:46
Please explain to me this dubious claim that without faith, life is meaningless. If you cannot even prove that a deity does indeed exist, then I don't see how believing in this supposed entity and praying to him (or her) would make life any more meaningful. What does a believer have that an unbeliever doesn't have? Only an unsubstantiated pipe dream that we're all gonna end up in two different, eternal theme parks. No evidence supports this.

Its said in the bible that with great faith a man can move a mountain. I'm still waiting for this to happen before I will concede that National Day of Prayer is a a good thing.

Anonymous
Sat May 8 2010 10:37
Faith is a powerful force, for without it you have no purpose to life. Learn to embrace it. Prayer is a good thing.
Anonymous
Sat May 8 2010 00:51
"Prayer not worth the trouble"

- Exactly, prayer is a waste of time. A single pair of hands at work is worth more than a billion clasped in prayer.

intelligent being
Fri May 7 2010 12:28
Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through our nation's history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations.

These facts compel me to pose a question. How can we honestly conclude that our government is secular or that such activity is barbaric when the elected leaders of every single state and the elected leader of our country all sign a proclamation encouraging the observance of this day? Who would like to write the letter to all 50 of our governors and to the president asking them to please just stop relying on superstition to lead our country?

Anonymous
Fri May 7 2010 09:18
Yes, good point. We live in a country, with a secular government. The government cannot endorse a particular religion or deity, which it is obviously doing with this barbaric ritual. Also, it is clear that this is a National "Christian" Day of prayer, so it does cater to a particular subset of Americans.

Those of us who don't believe in any religion are complete mystified at why intelligent beings feel the need to pray in the first place and what makes them think that they're prayers will actually alter the course of the world. Lets grow up and solve our own problems and not rely on superstition and mythology to solve them for us.

Anonymous
Fri May 7 2010 07:06
And thus the downfall of a society and a nation.






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