This will make Barry Lynn even more incensed than he is now: Pray for him today. Lynn is president of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and he has declared war on the National Day of Prayer. The National Day of Prayer is today, and Lynn is enraged that it has been taken over by the “Religious Right.”
Lynn’s biggest complaint with the National Day of Prayer is not that he thinks it violates the Constitution, rather that “Religious Right forces are using the National Day of Prayer as a vehicle to promote a controversial religious and political agenda.” By controversial, he means those who believe in the Bible.
It just so happens that the “Religious Right” is the only significant religious group in America that is really dedicated and interested in praying to God. That isn’t to say there aren’t folks who occasionally pray to false gods or demons or themselves in various corners of the Religious Left, but they don’t tend to be the prayer-warrior types.
Frustrated with the fact that the bulk of people involved in the National Day of Prayer actually believe in God, Lynn and his left-wing atheist-secularist-ecumenist allies are holding their own counter-events this year. The Left has chosen a new strategy for dealing with the Right rather than simply filing frivolous lawsuits. This time, they’ve somewhat diminished the First Amendment arguments and they’ve decided to compete for prayer space with the Religious Right.
Unitarians, mainstream Baptists, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, members of the “Military Pagan Network” and other watered-down ecumenists will hold an “Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection” on the steps of the Oklahoma State Capitol today to pray to the generic god. A group called Stop Theocracy in Oklahoma Policy planned the multi-faith reflection service as a protest of the simultaneous “Religious Right” Day of Prayer event. “The south steps of the state Capitol have no relation to the kingdom of God,” says Bruce Prescott, the organizer of the STOP protest.
Yet prayer to the God of the Bible is an important American tradition – in government. Every state legislature opens its sessions in prayer, as do both houses of Congress. Most presidents have declared days of prayer, thanksgiving, and even fasting. President Lincoln famously called for a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer” in the midst of the Civil War. President Harry S. Truman proclaimed an annual prayer day in 1952 following a joint resolution by Congress. And in 1988, President Ronald Reagan established the first Thursday of May as the official National Day of Prayer.
None of that mattered after Barry Lynn’s Web surfers discovered a link to the National Day of Silence on the Florida Juvenile Justice Department website and demanded the link removed. The link was promptly deleted last week. “Florida has no business promoting prayer events for the National Day of Prayer on any of its official websites, any more than it should be promoting an atheist event.”
Maybe there’s some inconsistency on the Left, but it does seem that atheists believe it to be OK for their events to be sponsored on public property. Atheists in Alabama are demanding state sponsorship for their protest of the National Day of Prayer, just yards from the Alabama judicial building where a monument of the Ten Commandments was ordered removed by a federal judge last summer. When the atheists sought access to indoor state facilities for their rally in case of rain, they went to Rep. Jay Love for sponsorship. Love refused, prompting Larry Darby of the Atheist Law Center to curse Love, accusing him of unfair treatment and calling him an “idiot.”
Some elected officials are going along with the wave of secularism. The city council of Belvidere, N.J., refused to pass a late April resolution in support of the National Day of Prayer after the town attorney and Mayor Charlie Liegel suggested that such a resolution would violate the separation of church and state. “I don’t think government has the right to do something like this,” said city council member Ben Ritter.
Even a Catholic priest was quoted in a Florida newspaper in opposition to the National Day of Prayer. Father Phil Egitto of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., refuses to participate in his local National Day of Prayer celebration because he considers it “extremely offensive” to Jews, Muslims and other religious minorities. Egitto is disappointed that the National Day of Prayer looks more like a “fundamentalist rally” than a hippie love fest.
But consider this Father Phil: The significant difference between the kumbaya sessions and interfaith vigils and atheist protests of the Religious Left and the Bible studies and prayer circles of the Religious Right is that our God is real. Barry Lynn’s godless America doesn’t stand a chance against one nation under God.