Officials in the city of North Miami, Fla., have decided not to discriminate against local residents who want to mark National Day of Prayer on May 2 with an event that utilizes city property and equipment.
And the move has earned the praise of officials with Liberty Counsel, who joined the argument after an anti-religion organization urged the city to impose special restrictions on the plans because of the participants’ viewpoint.
“The Supreme Court has been very clear that government may not exclude individuals or groups from public property or a government-created limited public forum simply because the speakers are religious or because they wish to communicate a religious message,” said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel.
“On May 2, thousands of National Day of Prayer Events will take place across America, despite the best efforts of atheist groups to remove God from the public square,” Staver said.
The events are part of an overall effort to create a focus on prayer as a recognition of the problems facing America today, and the failure of the social, political, economic and justice systems to provide solutions.
Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Fellowship, sometimes referred to as “the Billy Graham of his generation” for his massive evangelical crusades that fill the largest stadiums and arenas in the country, said, “If we prayer, God will hear. When He hears, who knows what He might do?”
His comments came in support of prayer events on May 2, the National Day of Prayer, for which is serves as honorary national chairman, and also a prayer event planned for 9/11/13, which he’s pledging to support.
The 911DayofPrayer.com plan has been announced by Joseph Farah, founder of WND.
“As this year’s honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer I support WND’s 9/11/13 National Day of Prayer and Fasting. I agree with Joseph Farah that America faces a spiritual crisis and there is nothing more effective we can bring our requests to God,” Laurie said. “In Scripture, God tells us ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ (Jer 33:3)”
Laurie, like Farah, notes that in times of crisis, the U.S. frequently has called on God. The Scripture chosen for this year’s event is Matthew 12:21, which says, “And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.”
In addition to Laurie, Jonathan Cahn, the No. 1 bestselling Christian author of 2012 and 2013 with “The Harbinger” is on board as well as Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. Last week, Bachmann entered a statement into the Congressional Record on Farah’s call for a 9/11 National Day of Prayer and Fasting.
“I join together with other Americans who have called for September 11, 2013, to be set aside as a day for personal prayer, reflection and fasting, for ourselves and for our nation,” Bachmann said in a statement. “At this time of national mourning, as we search for comfort in the aftermath of this loss of innocent life, we would be wise to consider afresh 2 Chronicles 7:14: ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’ As we humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways, we can take assurance from the Holy Scripture that God has promised to hear from heaven, will forgive our sin, and will heal our land.”
In the North Miami dispute, the city routinely loans its sound truck, event staff and certain public property to nonprofits without charge. Council members voted 4-1 to approve the same consideration for Mission Miami’s National Day of Prayer event.
But the action was returned to the agenda when the dissenting council member said taxpayer dollars should not be funding religion, and the national Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote that city officials should deny this group the considerations allowed other groups because of members’ viewpoint.
“While the city need not provide city property for use by nonprofits, once it does, it creates a ‘forum’ for purposes of the First Amendment. Once government opens property in this manner for use by the public, it cannot discriminate on the basis of viewpoint. Requiring Impact Miami to pay a fee for use of city property simply because it espouses a religious position constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment,” Liberty Counsel explained.
The city “has no legitimate concerns that it may be violating the Establishment Clause by allowing Impact Miami to engage in private religious speech, even where it is in relation to the National Day of Prayer and on public property,” Liberty Counsel told the city council.
The letter to the city said, “Contrary to what some have advised, were the city to consider a non-profit’s religious perspective in determining whether to deny that group the use of a public forum, this would constitute a violation of the law.”
“By making available city property as part of this forum, the city has simply allowed private speech to take place on the same terms as other nonprofits,” the letter to the city said.
“The Supreme Court has been very clear that government may not exclude individuals or groups from public property or a government-created limited public forum simply because the speakers are religious or because they wish to communicate a religious message, and it may not require the inclusion of any other party as a precondition for a private group’s access to the forum.”
Farah’s action plan for the 911DayofPrayer.com includes the following:
- Make a note on your calendar now to join in the commitment to participate;
- Help spread the word to the remnant of Americans who understand what we’re up against on Facebook and Twitter and by word of mouth;
- Talk to pastors and Bible study leaders and get them on board;
- Pray daily for believers across the nation to take serious the promise of II Chronicles 7:14 and follow its prescription;
- Sign up to register your commitment of support and your intention to participate.
“We’ve got our instructions,” said Farah of II Chronicles 7:14. “God is waiting on us to act – His people. He’s not waiting on the whole world to act. He’s not waiting on a majority of Americans to act. He’s waiting on us – his children, his followers, his believers.”