Saturday, May 8, 2010

National Day of Prayer service draws hundreds to Oklahoma Capitol

National Day of Prayer service draws hundreds to Oklahoma Capitol
Published: May 7, 2010

Oklahoma leaders, including Gov. Brad Henry, took part in a National Day of
Prayer service Thursday at the state Capitol, prompting one of the
organizers to say that many people in positions of authority believe in the
power of prayer.

"It just goes to show that prayer is still important to Oklahoma and to our
leadership,” said Lloyd Smith, chairman of the Oklahoma National Day of
Prayer Task Force.

About 300 people attended the service on the south plaza of the state
Capitol, one of many across the state marking the 59th National Day of

Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in
May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to

Last month, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the National Day of Prayer
was unconstitutional, saying the government cannot enact laws supporting a
day of prayer and may not use its authority to influence an individual’s
decision "whether and when to pray.” The Obama administration has said it
will appeal the ruling.

At least one speaker at the Capitol observance alluded to the judicial
challenge facing the national observance.

"Pastors are getting beat up,” the Rev. Gerald Peterson, pastor of First
Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City, said before praying for churches, pastors
and spiritual leaders.

"The church is being told you must stay within the boundaries. That’s not
God’s intent. We are to be witnesses. That is what we are doing here.”

Members of an Oklahoma atheists group gathered across from the state Capitol

"Basically we wanted to come here to show that not everyone agrees with what’s
happening. It’s a clear violation of separation of church and state. The
idea is you don’t need the government to tell you when to pray and how to
pray,” said Nick Singer, president of Oklahoma Atheists.

Singer, of Oklahoma City, and the group of about eight people held signs and
a banner that read, "The hands that help are better than the lips that

Leaders of the group said the banner referred to a food drive they held

Henry said he was honored to speak at what will be his last National Day of
Prayer service as governor. He said it is important that Oklahomans "honor
and recognize the power of prayer, especially in the current times when we
face the most difficult and challenging times as Americans.”

Henry said he has tried to comfort Oklahomans after they lost their homes or
loved ones due to a natural disaster or terrorist act. He said many families
turn "to the Almighty and to prayer.

"Because of the grace of God our spirit in Oklahoma will not be broken,”
Henry said.

Others who led prayers included Lt. Gov. Jari Askins; Howard Hendrick,
director of the Department of Human Services; Kevin Ward, public safety
commissioner; and Dr. Charles McWilliams with Surgical Specialists of
Oklahoma and secretary-treasurer of the American Association of Urologists.

Everett Davis of Yukon said it was the first time he had attended a National
Day of Prayer event.

"It gave me more encouragement at the strength they showed today. It
encouraged me to pray for them more earnestly,” Davis said.

Event coordinators in other areas of the metro and state had anticipated
more participation because of the awareness generated by the judicial

The Rev. Chris Shorow, senior pastor of First Christian Church of Edmond,
said participation in the Edmond’s service was greater than anticipated.

"We had at least double what we had last year,” Shorow said of the service
sponsored by the Edmond Ministerial Alliance.

Damion Reinhardt of Edmond, a member of Oklahoma Atheists, said his
organization opposed the prayer service because it was not inclusive of all

"This is not National Day of Prayer. This is Christian Day of Prayer,” he

In years past, a concurrent interfaith activity has been held at the state

This year, the Interfaith Alliance Foundation of Oklahoma planned to host a
forum on pluralism Thursday night at Emanuel Synagogue.

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