In 1952 Congress authorized the National Day of Prayer, and since 1988 this date has been set as the first Thursday in May. This year any celebration of that day, at least in a national context, is likely to be in question. In an article for The Christian Science Monitor yesterday, Staff Writer Warren Richey reported that United States District Judge Barbara Crabb has ruled that this statute constitutes government endorsement of religion, which is explicitly prohibited in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Crabb was ruling on a lawsuit filed against the National Day of Prayer by members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Crabb's ruling said the following about the law, which has been on the books for almost 60 years:
It goes beyond mere acknowledgment of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context.
In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.
Those who remember the Fifties or have taken the trouble to study their history know that these were the years when Communism was the greatest threat to what we now call "homeland security;" and one of the favorite adjectives to hang on the nouns "Communism" or "Communist" was "godless." The prevailing opinion was that America would vanquish Communism with the right combination of nuclear weapons and prayer books. In this context it is also appropriate to remember that two year later, in 1954, Congress legislated that the words "one nation" in the Pledge of Allegiance be changed to "one nation under God."
To emphasize the significance of her decision, Crabb further enjoined President Barack Obama from issuing and executive order calling for celebration of the National Day of Prayer. I hope he takes this seriously. I would like to believe that our President is confident enough in his personal sense of faith that he does not have to impose it on his electorate or parade it in front of representatives of other countries. This particular attribute that differentiates him from his predecessor was one significant reason that I voted for him.