The Washington Post reported that about one hundred people gathered near the U.S. Capitol today to protest a federal district judge’s ruling that the “National Day of Prayer” violates the U.S. Constitution. Justice Barbara Crabb of Wisconsin decided last month that the annual observance is “an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function.”
About 1000 Evangelicals were present yesterday, when Rev. Michael Hall of the International Bible Reading Association proclaimed that “as Christians we don't need a political strategy, we just need God's word.”
The protesters said they were just there to commune with God. “"No personalities. Just prayer. No party divisions. Just prayer,” according to Nancy Sharman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
But if there is no political strategy and no partisanship involved, why orchestrate the event on the Capitol steps? Why demand that Congress validate the National Day of Prayer, or that the President endorse it? Presumably Christians (and others) can offer their supplications with or without an official act of government.
If the motive is not political, what is it? Jesus, after all, warned in the Gospel of Matthew not to parade your piety before men.
The National Day of Prayer was enacted by a resolution of Congress in 1952, amid the McCarthyite hysteria that “atheistic Communism” was taking over the world. Today it’s become a narrow, sectarian expression of the Religious Right.
In a Bible-thumping worship service held in the Cannon House Office Building (owned b y U.S. taxpayers), Franklin Graham, son of the famous Rev. Billy Graham, told an audience filled with Congressmen and Pentagon brass that, "My prayer is that America once again will worship the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Where does that leave Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, pagans, atheists, or the millions of honest Christians who are loyal, patriotic citizens but don’t buy Graham’s fundamentalist fervor?
Graham is free, under the Bill of Rights, to pray whatever he likes. But he shouldn’t expect the U.S. government to say “Amen.”
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