Three weeks ago in a Wisconsin federal court, US District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the National Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment. “I understand that many may disagree with [my] conclusion and some may even view it as critical of prayer or those who pray. That is unfortunate,” Judge Crabb wrote. “A determination that the government may not endorse a religious message is not a determination that the message itself is harmful, unimportant, or undeserving of dissemination,” she added. “Rather it is part of the effort to carry out the Founders’ plan of preserving religious liberty to the fullest extent possible in a pluralistic society.”
President Obama ignored the order (which, strictly speaking, does not apply beyond the judge’s jurisdiction in Wisconsin) and declared May 6 a national day of prayer.
That day at 6 p.m. at Palm Coast’s Heroes Memorial Park, either as an answer to the national day of prayer or a counterpoint to it, members of the Flagler County Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State will gather with friends, family and anyone else who’d like to be part of the event, to celebrate a “Day of Inclusivity and Meditation.”
- Palm Coast Group Nails Historic Marker on Church-State Wall
- Read Judge Crabb’s Opinion Declaring the Day of Prayer Unconstitutional
- Barack Obama’s Day of Prayer Proclamation
- Harry Truman’s 1952 Proclamation
- Americans United for Separation of Church and State
- National Day of Prayer Task Force
- Jefferson’s Separation of Church and State Letter (1802)
- George W. Bush’s Jesus Day Proclamation
The day is organized “by those of us who chafe at the idea of someone else, particularly government entities, telling us to pray and when,” says Palm Coast’s Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, President of the National Board of Trustees of the Washington, D.C.- based Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “We find the mission, vision and values of the National Day of Prayer Task Force troubling. This Day of Inclusivity and Meditation is our response.”
Featured speakers at the event include Shapiro, George Griffin, regional head of the American Civil Liberties Union, Morris Sekiyo Sullivan of the Volusia Buddhist Fellowship, and Pierre Tristam, editor of FlaglerLive.com.
The stated mission of the National Day of Prayer Task Force “is to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family.” The task force’s website speaks of goals that include the fostering of “unity within the Christian Church” and the publicizing and preservation of “America’s Christian Heritage.” To those who have taken it upon themselves to guard what Thomas Jefferson called “the wall of separation between church and state,” zealots have engaged in historical revisionism, touting and exaggerating the role of Christianity in the founding of the country.
Non-Christians often bristle at the idea that the United States is a “Christian country” and that the government would “establish” Christianity and the Church as government-sanctioned religion in violation of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights that insists that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In 1952, a joint congressional resolution, signed by President Truman on July 4 (of all days), declared an annual, national day of prayer. The National Day of Prayer Task Force was at the root of the effort. Congress amended the law, permanently setting the first Thursday of May as the national day of prayer. Last year, all 50 state governors and the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations. It is that 1988 law that Judge Crabb declared unconstitutional on April 15.
Florida takes a particularly rigorous stand in favor of the separation of church and state through Article 3 of the state constitution. The article opens with the statement “there shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion” anywhere in the Sunshine State.” Florida, however, is among the Union’s most ardent prayer-states.
Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, notes that “Americans have the right to pray for whomever they want and in what manner they like. But we don’t need an officially designated government proclamation to do that. Our people are free to engage in worship whenever they want. Allowing government to set aside certain days for prayer and worship implies that the state has some say over our religious lives when it does not. It is simply not the business of government to advise when, if and how people pray. The U.S. Constitution mandates separation of church and state. This means it is the job of religious leaders, not government officials, to call people to pray. Americans are free to heed or ignore such prayer requests as they see fit. The NDP is problematic because it presumes that Americans should take direction on their religious lives from the government. It suggests that they will engage in certain religious activities because the government recommends they do. People do not need government directives to pray or take part in any other form of worship.”
Palm Coast’s Day of Inclusivity is is open to the public, there is no charge and no advance arrangements need be made. The outdoor event does not provide for seating, but all are welcome to bring their own chairs.