Wednesday, May 2, 2012

National Day Of Prayer Improperly Merges Government With Religion, Says Americans United

National Day Of Prayer Improperly Merges Government With Religion, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Says Annual Event Promotes Religious Right Agenda

The National Day of Prayer is just another attempt by the Religious Right to mix government with religion, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer, scheduled for May 3, has been largely hijacked by the Religious Right and is being used as an opportunity to promote a far-right religious-political agenda.

“This is really as much about politics as it is prayer, especially in an election year,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Americans don’t need to be told when or whether to pray, so this is yet another excuse for those who oppose church-state separation to go on the attack.”

The National Day of Prayer (NDP) was created by Congress in 1952. Federal law requires the president to issue a proclamation calling on people to pray. Originally a floating observance, the NDP was mandated as the first Thursday in May by Congress in 1988 at the request of Religious Right groups that use the occasion to promote their theocratic agenda.

Many events around the country are being coordinated by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a Colorado Springs-based Religious Right organization run by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson. The Dobsons oppose church-state separation and promote a fundamentalist Christian political agenda that often has a partisan flavor.

This year, the NDP Task Force chose David Jeremiah, a California pastor, as its honorary chairman. Jeremiah is known in the evangelical world for declaring President Barack Obama to be “a dangerous person” who is moving America “toward socialism and away from our historical moorings.”

Despite its sectarian and partisan overtones, NDP Task Force events are held each year at the U.S. Capitol and other government buildings, with government officials joining in.

“The National Day of Prayer has turned into a Religious Right soapbox in which constitutional protections against state entanglement with religion are often ignored,” said Lynn. “That’s why government at all levels should stop endorsing this misguided agenda.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

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