Despite opposition, National Day of Prayer will be held
On April 15, Federal Judge Barbara Crabb, serving the Western District of Wisconsin, struck down the National Day of Prayer statute. This case was filed in 2008 against the
Bush (and subsequently Obama) administration by the 15,000-member Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Following passage by Congress, President Harry Truman signed the statute into law on April 17, 1952. It was amended in 1988 and signed by President Reagan establishing a particular date, “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups and as individuals.”
Judge Crabb ruled the statute unconstitutional, saying it violates the First Amendment prohibition laws respecting an establishment of religion because the statute serves no secular purpose; rather it calls the nation to engage in a religious exercise – prayer.
According to news reports, the “order does not affect presidential prayer proclamations and will not go into effect unless the decision still stands after all appeals are exhausted in the case.” So the National Day of Prayer will still be held on Thurs., May 6, 2010. The National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDPTF) and other organizations are urging President Obama to appeal the ruling, which must be done within 60 days of when it was issued.
Franklin Graham, honorary chairman of this year’s event, has stated, “At a time when our country is waging two wars, approval ratings for Congress are at historic lows, unemployment is at a 70-year high and financial institutions have collapsed around us, I can’t imagine anyone seriously opposing a National Day of Prayer.”
Graham went on to say he was puzzled by the judge’s logic. “In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb wrote, ‘The nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual’s decision whether and when to pray.’
“It sounds to me like even the judge in this case understands the power of prayer. But it’s voluntary. There’s no requirement that people pray. To act like a National Day of Prayer is a bad thing or somehow subversive is ridiculous. Surely our country needs prayer now more than ever,” said Graham.
The tradition of having a National Day of Prayer dates back to 1775 when President George Washington issued a proclamation after the Continental Congress. A fact sheet at the National Day of Prayer website states, “There have been 135 calls for prayer, humiliation, fasting and thanksgiving by the President of the United States from 1789 – 2009. Every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer Proclamation.”
Organizers of the National Day of Prayer call the ruling an attack upon our religious freedoms.
“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.”
Franklin Graham reminds us that God commands us to pray for our leaders in 1 Timothy 2:1, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made…for all those in authority.”
Graham said, “May we as followers in Christ and citizens of the United States humble ourselves before the only One who blessed the prayers of our forefathers and showered this land with greatness.”