Shirley Dobson, Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, is calling for praying Americans to sign a petition in support of the National Day of Prayer. But in so doing, she takes an unnecessary swipe at a federal judge and fans flames of a fire that need not burn.
On April 15, 2010, United States District Court Judge Barbara Crabb, for the Western District of Wisconsin, struck down the National Day of Prayer statute, 36 U.S.C. § 119, as violating the Establishment Clause. Judge Crabb ruled that the statute serves no secular purpose, but rather calls the nation to engage in a religious exercise – prayer.
The National Day of Prayer belongs to Americans. It is a tradition that dates back to 1775 and it is not for a Judge to take away. We the people called for the day of prayer and for 59 years we have practiced our freedom to gather and pray.
This is an attack upon our religious freedoms and it is a sad day in America when an atheist in Wisconsin can undermine this tradition for millions of others who simply wish to join their fellow citizens in praying for their country.
The National Day of Prayer provides an opportunity for all Americans to pray voluntarily according to their own faith – it does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
There is so much to say about this hateful statement and about the other horrible errors on the National Day of Prayer Task Force website. Most notably, a law calling for a National Day of Prayer does not "[provide] an opportunity for all Americans to pray voluntarily according to their own faith." That opportunity and right comes from the US Constitution, particularly the First Amendment, and not by any law passed by Congress. Christians and Jews and Muslims and people of all kinds of faith are free to assemble and pray whenever they so choose, thanks to the freedoms guaranteed by our nation's Constitution. Getting rid of the National Day of Prayer would not be "an attack upon our religious freedoms," but instead would be an effort to get the government out of the business of telling Americans when and how they should pray.
So much more to say. Dobson's violent language above seems interested in doing little more than to incite anger and manipulate people into thinking that their religious liberties are under attack by atheists … which is so far from the truth as to be laughable. We continue to be a nation of freedoms guaranteed by the oldest written constitution in the world. Shame on us if we let fearmongerers such as Shirley Dobson let us believe otherwise.
I've written previously about the National Day of Prayer. National Day of Prayer, or Ascension Day? was written when I noticed that a local Episcopal church was holding services for the National Day of Prayer but not Ascension Day, a principal festival of the Christian Church, when the two days happened to coincide in 2008. As a follow-up to that post, I wrote Why I Don't Like the National Day of Prayer.
I've written on church/state topics many times. Click here for a listing of all my entries related to church/state issues.