April 23, 2010


Support the National Day of Prayer in 2010 and beyond

The Rev. Billy Graham was the driving force behind the initiative and planted the seed.

And presidents Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and other commanders in chief supported it.

But thanks to a Wisconsin federal judge’s recent ruling, the future of the National Day of Prayer in America is uncertain beyond this year.

From its roots traced back to 1952 when Rev. Graham led a rally in Washington calling for a special day for Americans to pray and meditate so that the United States would experience a “great spiritual awakening,” the National Day of Prayer has been a staple of American society since President Truman signed a National Prayer Day proclamation in 1953.

President Reagan later made it a permanent event, and President Bush annually hosted a high-profile event to mark the day at the White House.

Despite the overwhelming support the event has had over the years, we knew it would only be a matter of time before a group of secularists challenged this

time-tested celebration that the majority of Americans—across all walks of life—support.

Enter the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, a group of atheists and agnostics, which filed a lawsuit against government officials in 2008.

In their suit, the group argued that the day violated the separation of Church and state because it said that, in observing the day, government officials too often adopted the religious perspective of the National Day of Prayer Task Force based at the headquarters of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In her April 15 ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb of Madison, Wis., sided with the Wisconsin

organization, saying that the federal law designating the day and requiring a presidential proclamation for the day violates the First Amendment prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion.

The decision is not expected to affect this year’s presidential proclamation, scheduled for May 6, because Crabb postponed enforcement of the decision until all appeals are exhausted.

The U.S. Department of Justice said it was reviewing the judge’s ruling before deciding on a next step. It has 60 days to appeal.

The White House said President Barack Obama would make his 2010 proclamation as planned.

We certainly disagree with Judge Crabb’s decision, and think Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee had it right when he said last week that the ruling was a “missed opportunity to acknowledge our nation’s identity, which was founded on our dependence on God.”

We only need to look to the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, to add historical context to the situation, to see how important our Founding Fathers viewed our God and Creator.

For more than 200 years, the majority of Americans have embraced these principles and what they stand for. To put it simply, they help form the fabric of who we are as a nation.

Thankfully, the ruling does not affect the annual National Prayer Breakfast, hosted by a private organization in Washington on the first Thursday of February, or the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which will take place in September.

What it does do, though, is open our eyes again to how a misguided viewpoint can potentially dismantle what has been a time-honored tradition.

Now is the time for people of faith to stand up and let the Justice Department know that, despite the work of those behind the “religion of secularism,” as Archbishop Listecki aptly puts it, we support continuing the National Day of Prayer.

This year, in 2011, 2012 and beyond.

—Mike Krokos

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