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May 06, 2010

What's so wrong with a National Day of Prayer?

As the National Day of Prayer nears, a right-winger wrote, 

President John Adams declared May 9, 1798 as "a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer," during which citizens of all faiths were asked to pray "that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it".  What could be so wrong with inviting all faiths to pray for our country?

Nothing, so long as Congress doesn’t pass a law about it because such a law would violate the First Ammendment prohibition that it “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  Note that the ammendments says, “of religion” and not “of A regligion” as it protects non-believers as well religions and sects from one another.  

Prayer has only a religious and no secular function and declaring it by Congress would favor the religious over the non-religious.  And the text of the law makes it clear that it is a religious observance and nothing more.

The President is not prevented from public, religious observance and involvement, nor even in all probability from issuing a presidential proclamation as long it didn’t come from Congress.  Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as presidents did attend church, but refused to issue proclamations that issued from Congress for this reason.

The text of the National Prayer law makes it clear that it is discriminating against non-believers when it requires a proclamation of, "a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God."  Which is impossible for non-believers.

And Ronald Regan's proclamation is crystal clear in excluding non-believers as first-class citizen's when he said, "... the National Day of Prayer has become a great unifying force for our citizens who come from all the great religions of the world. Prayer unites people."  That is, unifying for the religious but excluding the rest.  Never-the-less, he could be discriminatory like this even when as president.  It may not be seemly, but it isn't illegal or unconstitutional.

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