National Day of Prayer

The Praying Hands
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Today is the National Day of Prayer.

In the past, I’ve thought of this as a good thing, and in some ways I still do. I mean, it’s prayer, and I’m for prayer.  So that’s good.

But this morning, I read an interesting post by a baptist pastor that got me thinking about things in a new light.

Here’s the official press release:

Baptist group says National Day of Prayer is misguided and unnecessary
Day of prayer more appropriately called for by pastors, rabbis and imams

WASHINGTON — Congress’ official designation and the President’s predictable proclamation of a National Day of prayer is misguided and unnecessary, says a Washington, D.C.-based church-state organization.

J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, said “it is not the government’s job to tell the American people what, where or when to pray or even if they should pray.”

In 1952, Congress passed a joint resolution, signed by President Harry Truman, setting aside one day a year for prayer. Since then, presidents have proclaimed a day for prayer annually observed on the first Thursday of May. The administration has announced President Obama will sign a proclamation but will not hold an event this year.

“There is nothing wrong with the American people getting together to pray on a designated day, even public officials,” Walker said. “In fact every day should be a day of national prayer. President Obama, like others before him, welcomes prayers for our country and its leadership. He has expressed his personal appreciation for such support, and people of faith feel called to pray for our country.

“The problem with the National Day of Prayer is that it is an official act of the government urging citizens to engage in a religious exercise,” Walker said.

Walker said people of faith do not require the government’s stamp of approval for their religious practices.

“A day of prayer is more appropriately called for by pastors, rabbis and imams among us — not civil magistrates, Congress, or even an American president.”

What do you guys think? Is the National Day of Prayer a violation of the First Amendment? And even if it is, should that prohibit Christians from endorsing it?

I’ll start the conversation by saying that I agree with the press release completely. The government shouldn’t be in the business of endorsing national days of religious observance. If you disagree, tell me why I’m wrong.

(via RELIGION Blog | The Dallas Morning News)

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