Thursday, May 01, 2008

Today's National Day of Prayer Is Surrounded by Controversy

Today is National Day of Prayer (see prior posting), and controversies surround it. Jews on First reports that its campaign for an "Inclusive National Day of Prayer" has failed. Its website says: "Almost all of the governors ... have issued National Day of Prayer proclamations to the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a group linked to Focus on the Family.... even though we informed the governors that the Task Force practices religious discrimination." (See related prior posting.)

Meanwhile, yesterday the Public Record reported that at least six active duty military officers (chaplains and others) have been working closely with the National Day of Prayer Task Force as coordinators of events at military installations. The application that coordinators must sign states in part: "I agree to ... ensure a strong, consistent Christian message throughout the nation. I commit that NDP activities I serve with will be conducted solely by Christians while those with differing beliefs are welcome to attend." This may raise Establishment Clause issues.

Alliance Defense Fund says that its "attorneys sent an informational letter last week to nearly 1,200 of the nation's largest cities, advising them of their constitutional right to recognize and participate in the 2008 National Day of Prayer...."

In Washington, DC, the 90-hour long U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon, held on the steps of the nation's Capitol, comes to an end today. In the afternoon, there will be a Pastors and Church Leaders Gathering at the Cannon House Office Building and in the evening there will be a Public Prayer and Unity Assembly on the West Lawn of the Capitol. (Details). Usually the White House has its own separate National Day of Prayer ceremony. (See 2007 Day of Prayer posting.)

UPDATE: This morning, the White House hosted its own National Day of Prayer ceremony-- as it has done for the last 8 years. A video of the entire ceremony is available from the White House website. The ceremony was opened by NDP Task Force Chair Shirley Dobson who announced all sorts of prayer events taking place around the country, including private pilots and their passengers flying near state capitols in every state, and a "pray for election day" initiative. President Bush spoke at the event (transcript), which included Jewish as well as a variety of Christian participants.