The National Day of Prayer has become little more than a propaganda vehicle for the Religious Right to rewrite American history and attack church-state separation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State charged today.
Americans United asserts that the event is dominated by ultra-conservative Religious Right activists who are using it to bash church-state separation and advance an erroneous view of the United States as a "Christian nation."
"The American people don't need Congress, the president or any government official to tell them when and how to pray," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The National Day of Prayer is a reckless mixture of church and state that should be shut down."
NDP is an annual event that was established by an act of Congress in 1952. Originally a "floating holiday," the NDP was officially designated the first Thursday in May when Congress amended the law in 1988. Most NDP events are coordinated by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private group headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder and Religious Right political activist James C. Dobson. The task force urges prayer events in government facilities and schools across the nation.
Lynn said a manual put out by the task force to promote the event gives an erroneous view of U.S. history. "The National Day of Prayer Task Force's materials imply that Founders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were 18th century versions of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson," Lynn said. "In fact, these founders strongly supported church-state separation, a fact completely missing from these materials."
Lynn also faulted the materials for promoting a non-historical view of America as an officially "Christian nation." He noted that the manual calls on NDP volunteers to "let our hearts follow Christ as we intercede for our nation and its leaders and reclaim America in this new century for Him."
Asserted Lynn, "It's ridiculous for Religious Right activists to talk about 'reclaiming' America. The Religious Right can't 'reclaim' America because they never claimed it in the first place. The United States was founded to be a secular republic, not an officially Christian nation."
Concluded Lynn, "The National Day of Prayer has become a platform for the Religious Right to blast the separation of church and state ironically, the very principle that guarantees their right to worship in the first place. The NDP task force ought to be ashamed of itself."
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000 members and allied houses of worship in all 50 states.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.