Government Has No Business in Prayer–Especially When Not Inclusive

Morbo, who frequently writes on matters of church and state at The Carpetbagger Report on Saturdays, describes how the National Day of Prayer has been hijacked by the religious right:

The National Day of Prayer is Thursday, May 1. I oppose it. I believe religious leaders should call people to prayer, not government officials. I believe religious services should take place in houses of worship, not government buildings.

Alas, the federal courts do not agree with me. Thus, we have a National Day of Prayer. Of course it has been taken over by obnoxious fundamentalist Christians who sponsor exclusionary programs that promote their narrow brand of Christianity.

If we have to have a day like this, it ought to be interfaith. But the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private group run by Religious Right honcho James Dobson’s wife, Shirley, tells its volunteers not to let anyone near the microphone who has not signed off on a fundamentalist statement of faith.

Jews on First have set up a web site calling for an Inclusive Prayer Day:

The National Day of Prayer falls on May 1st this year, and in most parts of the country, there is a religious “litmus test” limiting participation to fundamentalist Christian evangelicals. Focus on the Family, the largest organization on the Christian Right, and groups allied with it control the occasion, calling themselves the National Day of Prayer Task Force and asserting that their website is the “National Day of Prayer Official Website.”

The National Day of Prayer has been hijacked! What began in 1952 as President Truman’s declaration of a National Prayer Day for all Americans is now excluding and dividing us on religious lines. The “Task Force” excludes Jews, Muslims, Catholics and even mainline Christians from participation in the events it coordinates around the country. Many of those events are staged in government venues with elected officials, in a deliberate affront to the separation of church and state.

Our Inclusive National Prayer Day project aims to work with activists in as many states as possible to lobby governors to refrain from proclaiming or endorsing the National Day of Prayer in ways that enhance the Task Force’s exclusive control of the day and its efforts to create the appearance of government-sponsored religious ceremonies…

We have compiled talking points and documentation about the National Day of Prayer Task Force. Please click here.

Morbo concludes his post by quoting from Thomas Jefferson:

In a letter to the Rev. Samuel Miller dated Jan. 23, 1808, Jefferson explained his views: “I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of affecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting & prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, & the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the constitution has deposited it.”

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  1. 1
    chris says:

    May 1st is the National Day of Prayer? And you are concerned that the religious right has hijacked it?

    Let them have it.

    July is National Beer Month. That’s the real prize.

  2. 2
    tomcady says:

    it looked so easy
    our heritage beckoned
    the nation was, after all, christian

    and so they began their crusade
    marching toward theocracy

    and as they plodded
    the children wailed
    are we there yet?

    and god whispered
    you’re going the wrong way

  3. 3
    Brett says:

    But the Jews on First condemns all official proclamations posted on the Dobson’s Web site. Yet the proclamations weren’t created just for the Web site. Several specifically called for prayer by people of all faiths.

  4. 4
    pam says:

    You morons  prayer is good for schools and any other government place we want to pray.

    That’s right, Congress can’t create a religion and force it down our throats. This is a protection of religious freedom not a separation of church and state. We are free to worship and express our faith as we please, which I noticed you didn’t go further to elaborate on (or prohibiting the free exercise thereof). Having school prayer and putting up the ten commandments in a court room didn’t come about by the state, it was the free exercise of religion by locality and judges in those courthouses. There was no law pass by Congress that said we have to have school prayer or the we have to put up the ten commandments. Nor any laws passed by Congress having crosses on tombs or a big cross on a mountain. These action were taken by individuals and communities. How do these violate the constitution? We have so pervert things that we don’t know up from down anymore. You have these so-called athiest, who are looking to impose their viewpoints on everyone else, making these asinine challenges to any expression of faith in the name of “separation of church and state” which is not even in the constitution! Challenges to individuals and communities that have freely chosen to pray before football games, freely chosen to have the ten commandments posted publicly, and so on. So get your facts straight and try to understand the actual wording of the constitution, which talks about laws forcing people to worship not the free exercise of religion that is protected.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:


    You need to get your fact straight as opposed to listening to the rigth wing extremists who promote a revisionist history.

    The writings of the framers of the Constitution make it clear that the First Amendment was in fact written to establish separation of church and state. This interpretation has been upheld by the courts many times.

    Early religious leaders recognized the importance of separation of church and state to protect their religious liberty.

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