America’s State-Sanctioned Prayer

When prayer and politics intersect |

A couple of interesting statements from this article in the Christian Science Monitor:

Mixing politics and prayer can be problematic, as John of the Market Street Baptist Church points out, when those assembled can’t agree on the clear moral imperative. What’s more, events that bring elected officials and their religious constituents together for prayer at public buildings can feel exclusivist to the nation’s 30 million nonbelievers, according to Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists. “It makes [the prayer rally] look like a government activity,” she says, noting that all 50 governors and President Bush have issued proclamations recognizing this year’s National Day of Prayer. “When government gets involved in endorsing religion, the rest of us feel marginalized.”

Prayer is sure to play a larger role in political discourse as concerns about terrorism evoke a desire to pray, according to Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. But, in his opinion, that may not lead to the best public policy. “Prayer is really about the heart, and political life is about thinking and hard choices,” he says. “That’s why it’s better not to mix these two.”

Isn’t the very idea of having a “National Day of Prayer” an obvious and clearly flagrant violation of the separation of church and state? Just the sound of it reminds me of some religious fundamentalist dictatorship – not the kind of thing I would expect to hear from a supposedly free democracy. Christians pray every Sunday, and many muslims pray five times per day. Why do we need a national, state sanctioned day to pray some more? Is it so we can show our allegiance to God in conjunction with our obedience to our rulers?

One of the primary reasons why we created this democracy in the first place was to remove the idea of religion-driven leadership. We need to preserve that idea if this country is to remain a free one.