From Gary Stern of LoHud.com’s Bloggin Religiously section:
Today is the 58th annual National Day of Prayer, which, like so many things, has become quite politicized in recent years.
The National Day of Prayer became federal law in 1952, after heavy lobbying by Billy Graham and others. President Truman signed the bill.
The idea, at first, was pretty general: to inspire Americans to spend one day—the same day—in prayer and reflection, whether at church or at home.
In recent years, the day has become closely associated with the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a conservative evangelical group run by Shirley Dobson, the wife of Focus on the Family founder Jim Dobson. Many liberal and moderate Christians, among others, have complained that the day was hijacked by those with a very specific point of view.
President Bush invited religious leaders to the White House every year for a special prayer service.
President Obama chose not to, a move that is seen by some as anti-Day of Prayer. Obama did sign a proclamation this morning declaring a National Day of Prayer, but did not make a big deal of it.
Shortly after noon today, many Americans will gather in small groups outside their city and town halls to pray together.
So there you go.
From Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News Religion Blog:
Fox & Friends is on fire this morning stoking the controversy over President Obama not publicly observing the National Day of Prayer as predecessor George W. Bush did. Lots of graphics about how many churches are near the White House. Much gnashing of teeth over the president slighting godly expression. No mention of Matthew 6:5-6:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”
And from the Interfaith Alliance:
Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response to the proclamation issued this afternoon by President Obama for the National Day of Prayer:
President Obama did the right thing today by issuing a proclamation for the National Day of Prayer that is inclusive of all Americans. We must cherish the freedom in this country to pray or not to pray.
The reality is that we don’t need our elected leaders to instruct us in the ways of religion just as we don’t need our religious leaders to tell us for whom to vote. However, if we are going to have such a day, I am glad to see that this president understands that it should be inclusive.