Juvenile Injustice: Florida Promotes Day Of Christian-Only Prayer

With Religious Right forces poised to use this week's National Day of Prayer to push their radical agenda, many local communities are swept up in the fervor. In Florida, an enterprising staff member of the state Department of Juvenile Justice decided to post a link about the event to the Department's home page. The link led readers to the home page of the Florida Prayer Network, an organization that uses its site to encourage people to be baptized, to profess their faith in Jesus and to allow the Holy Spirit to control their lives.

Religious leaders and civil libertarians were shocked to discover a branch of the state government overtly promoting a particular religion, according to the Palm Beach Post. "Florida has no business promoting prayer events for the National Day of Prayer on any of its official Web sites, any more than it should be promoting an atheist event," observed AU executive director Barry Lynn. Murtaza Kakli, a local Muslim leader, pointed out that "this is not a Christian nation. There are all kinds of religions in this country.... These right-wingers, to me, do not seem to be tolerating people other than Christians." Local Jewish leader William Galnick agreed, observing that the annual prayer day "has become more and more and more a problem for many faith communities because it tends to be so evangelically dominated."

Although the National Day of Prayer was originally established as an annual event by Congress in 1952 to distance America from Soviet communism, the event has come to be dominated by the National Day of Prayer Task Force led by Shirley Dobson. Dobson is the wife of Christian fundamentalist and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

For more information on the National Day of Prayer, read AU's Media Backgrounder and learn what Jefferson, Madison and Jackson had to say about prayer proclamations.