Thursday, May 6, 2010

National Day of Prayer is here

Congress decreed the National Day of Prayer in 1952, partly to solidify various calls to prayer by previous Presidents, and to differentiate the USA from the USSR.  The day's significance has varied over the years, with Reagan and Bush (I) hosting formal events only once during their successive presidencies, while Bush (II) had a ceremony every year.  President Obama has offered his support:
Last Friday, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation. “Prayer has been a sustaining way for many Americans of diverse faiths to express their most cherished beliefs, and thus we have long deemed it fitting and proper to publicly recognize the important of prayer on this day across the Nation.”

While this proclamation is soft and general, the Obama administration has also taken the concrete step of appealing a judge's ruling to declare the official holiday unconstitutional.  This is good politics, since the evangelical movement has firmly latched onto the symbolism of this day:
"America was birthed in prayer and founded on the God of the Bible, on his biblical principles and on his moral values," Day of Prayer organizer Shirley Dobson said.
Another emerging pillar of the evangelical movement is that it is an oppressed minority.  The military dis-invited Franklin Graham from a Pentagon ceremony (probably due to his anti-Islam statements), and so he was forced to pray on the sidewalk
And there is a San Diego connection.  This email was sent to all county employees:
From: FGG, CountyAll
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 8:26 AM
Subject: A message from Supervisor Bill Horn

Dear fellow County employee,
This year, as in past years, the Board of Supervisors has recognized the National Day of Prayer with a proclamation. In 1952, Congress established an annual day of prayer, and in 1988 that law was amended, designating the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May.
Today, May 6, I once again invite you to commemorate the National Day of Prayer at the CAC flagpole at 12:30 PM. The theme for the 59th annual National Day of Prayer is “Prayer: For Such a Time as This”.
We are thankful for the freedom to gather, the freedom to worship and the freedom to pray. This commemoration is a personal, not a government, function; and so, for those of you who choose to participate during your own personal time, I hope you will join me at the flagpole today at 12:30 P.M.

Bill Horn
Supervisor, Fifth District

The humanist position on prayer is clear and consistent:  talking to the air has no constructive, external benefit to the world.  There are internal (psychological) effects, some good and some bad.  For example, some people derive emotional strength through prayer, while others learn magical thinking.  In summary, the government is over-reaching by endorsing prayer.  See the Secular Coalition's take on the holiday and on possible humanist responses here.

No comments:

Post a Comment