Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer. And some folks are upset by that. I couldn’t quite understand why, so I did what I do best – researched. Half a day of research later, I am still not able to understand why but I will share what I found so that you may either clarify it for me, or join me in at least being better educated in our confusion.
Disclosures first: I am religious. I am not a jerk about it. End of disclosures.
So what is the issue? Here is a link to the story I heard. Essentially, what happened is this. After a ruling against the National Day of Prayer, the creator of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote every governor and the mayor of every city with more than 30,000 people. I don’t know why she stopped at 30,000 people – perhaps people in small towns do not deserve “Freedom From Religion”. She urged them to abandon the prayer events this year, saying they disenfranchise those who don’t believe in God.
Whoa! Disenfranchise? What rights are being taken away from those who don’t believe in God? Let’s look at exactly what the National Day of Prayer is. The US Code Title 36, Subtitle I, Part A, Chapter 1 Section 119 says:
National Day of Prayer – The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.
May turn to God. Not must turn to God. There is a huge, fundamental difference between being provided an opportunity to pray with your fellow Americans, and being forced to. Gaylor goes on to say that, “it (the National Day of Prayer) is unconstitutional — nothing less than government endorsement of religion.” What the Constitution says about religion is that the government may not establish a state religion. Saying that Americans can pray together is a world apart from saying that they all have to profess an allegiance to a specific faith.
In her letter governors and mayors (of cities bigger than 30,000 people), Gaylor mentions that “We also quoted the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus points out that if you pray, you should pray in secret to your Father, otherwise you’re a hypocrite,” Gaylor says. “We have both the Bible and the Constitution in our favor — that the government should not be in the prayer business.”
Well, except for that one pesky First Amendment part of the Constitution that states, gosh darnit, not that people are free from religion, but instead that:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The worst thing about the National Day of Prayer is that it’s redundant. We already have this freedom. The notion that the Bible would be in favor of the Freedom From Religion’s objection to the National Day of Prayer was interesting, but I don’t really buy it. What this really comes down to is that Gaynor is annoyed by religion. And she has the right to be; there are a lot of annoying things about religion. But there are a lot of annoying things, period. I think I’ll follow her lead and start a few foundations of my own.
How about the Foundation For Freedom From People Who Park Right In Front Of The Store Because They Think They Are The Only Customer? That drives me NUTS! But alas, nothing unconstitutional or Biblical about it.
Maybe the Foundation for the Freedom From People Who Give Me Dirty Looks For Using A Movie Cart While They Pile Capri Sun Into Their Own Cart? Like you aren’t going to stab the straw into one of those and pop your kid in front of the TV the split second you get home so you can unload your groceries.
Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s get the Foundation for the Freedom From People Who Complain About Politics But Don’t Vote Or Really Have Any Idea What They Are Talking About“? I could definitely use a break from those folks.
Who is with me? What “freedom” are you being deprived of by the things that annoy you?