Enter your email address to subscribe to Irregular Times and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 448 other subscribers

Irregular Times Newsletters

Click here to subscribe to any or all of our six topical e-mail newsletters:
  1. Social Movement Actions,
  2. Credulity and Faith,
  3. Election News,
  4. This Week in Congress,
  5. Tech Dispatch and
  6. our latest Political Stickers and Such

Contact Us

We can be contacted via retorts@irregulartimes.com

National Day Of Prayer Is Plainly Unconstitutional

The First Amendment’s separation of Church and State was created in order to avoid the inequality inherent in government intrusion into private decisions about religion. When government takes sides in disagreements about religion, bad things start to take place: Religious discrimination, religious wars, religious torture, religious execution. These aren’t just theoretical possibilities. They’re all a part of the history of the American colonies against which the founders of the United States of America were reacting.

The First Amendment to the Constitution sets a very clear standard that forbids religious government activities: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. Given that laws passed by Congress fund everything that the government does, the amendment means that the government cannot participate in religious activities.

Of course, the federal government has a history of engaging in religious activities anyway. The reason is plain: Crass political advantage. For much of American history, religious groups have been dominant in society, and their votes have been earned by politicians who pander to their pride. Politicians have learned that they can gain lots of campaign money and grassroots organization facilitated by churches if they go along with efforts to create government religious ceremonies that elevate particular beliefs above others. Religious groups have been happy to become cogs in political machines in return for big government endorsements. Thus, when government and religion are mixed, both government and religion become corrupted.

Of course, the fact that these violations of the Constitution have become prevalent and popular tools for politicians doesn’t make them any less violations of the Constitution. That’s what U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled today about one particular platform for the corrupt mixing of Church and State: The National Day of Prayer.

The National Day of Prayer was created as a governmental event in response to the passage of a law by Congress recommending the establishment of the official government religious holiday. The law, Public Law 100-307, was passed in 1988, after an effort begun by pro-segregation Senator Strom Thurmond.

Such passage by Congress of a law to create a religious holiday is in itself clearly unconstitutional. However, the National Day of Prayer goes further. Rather than merely promoting religion in general, the government event promotes a particular form of religious ritual, and promotes particular forms of religion over other forms of religion.

President Barack Obama has not yet issued an official Presidential Proclamation establishing the National Day of Prayer this year, although the White House has indicated that such a proclamation will soon be issued, without regard to today’s ruling. An examination of Obama’s National Day of Prayer last year makes it clear, however, that the government holy day is conducted only for the benefit of certain religious traditions – those religions that involve prayer to the particular deity known as “God”. The Proclamation particularly urged religious worship of God – not Allah, not Vishnu, nor any goddess or other deity but the Jewish/Christian “God”.

“I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 7, 2009, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon Americans to pray in thanksgiving for our freedoms and blessings and to ask for God’s continued guidance, grace, and protection for this land that we love.”

This government establishment of religion excludes large number of Americans. According to the latest American Religious Identification Survey, only 70 percent of the American population report a belief in the deity “God”. The percentage of Americans who choose to live without religion is between 13 and 15 percent.

Tea Party protesters have been making a lot of noise about the threat of socialism. They say that they’re worried about the government intruding into Americans’ private decisions. Yet, when it comes to the case of the National Day of Prayer, Tea Party organizations have been remarkably silent. The federal government has unconstitutionally moved toward creating a state religion, a clear form of socialism. However, it seems that religious socialism is something that Tea Party activists are more than happy to accept.

20 comments to National Day Of Prayer Is Plainly Unconstitutional

  • Anonymous

    You do realize socialism as an ideology is fundamentally anti-religion?

  • Tom

    Anonymous: So, the post-office is anti-religious? The fact that we have highways, anti-religion?

  • JD

    A national day of prayer doesn’t force anyone to pray nor does it establish a religion.

    • That’s balderdash, JD. It establishes an official government religious ritual. It doesn’t force anyone to pray, but it does use tax money, which we’re all forced to pay, to support a form of religious worship that is inherent to only some forms of religion, and not others. It uses public resources to support a project that promotes religion in general, and promotes some religions over other religions. The National Day of Prayer is also used to set up channels of corruption in local government.

      The National Day of Prayer law is an establishment of religion, plain and simple.

      If this “God” character that all these prayers supposedly go to really exists, why do Christian churches rely so heavily on federal government support?

      • JD

        “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.”
        Plain and simple establishment of a religion? I don’t think so. But if we get too literal, I guess this law is unconstitutional. If there is only one day a year in which we “may turn to God” I suppose it means we may not turn to God the other 364 days out of the year and that is clearly unconstitutional.

        • “Too literal”? What’s “too literal” about this? The Congress isn’t supposed to be making any laws regarding any establishment of religion – period. It’s very simple to understand, not some wacky obscure kind of legalese we’re talking about here.

          The law instructs the President to create a new religious holiday in which particular forms of religious worship, not shared by all religious, are to be engaged in. Do you really think that the U.S. federal government should be in the business of coming up with new religious holy days?

          • JD

            I think you’re reading way too much into the law, plain and simple. It seems as if to you the consitution prohibiting the establishment of a religion means that the “G” word can’t be mentioned. That’s balderdash.

            • JD, you’re struggling to find a straw man, and in doing so, are describing what you wish I was saying rather than what I am actually saying.

              If a law passed by Congress that establishes a religious holiday with specific religious rituals of worship, a holiday that promotes only a certain sort of religion, doesn’t count as an establishment of religion by Congress, then nothing does.

              • JD

                No straws. You see it as a religious holy day, I don’t.

              • Plenty of people don’t recognize the religious holy day – because huge numbers of Americans aren’t members of religions that practice prayer. But, they’re having to do so in defiance of their own government. The government, through a law passed by Congress, has established a national holy day, and the President has confirmed it with his proclamations. They’ve created a new form of big government religious worship.

              • JD

                It’s not a national holy day but I repeat myself. I think it’s congress overstepping their role but I don’t see a constitutional issue. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the courts, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this one. How about a national moment of silence that lasts a whole day, would that be ok? How about “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Moments of Silence on which the people of the United States may turn to the God of their choice or no God at all in prayer and/or meditation at churches, or other meeting place in groups, and as individuals.”?

      • Chucklenuts

        You do conveniently misquote the Ammendment, by leaving out “…the Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”

        Allowances can be reasonably be expected to not “prohibit the free exercise thereof”. It is really a matter of government convenience that most federal workers consider Christmas to be a holiday. So many people would not show up to work anyway, since (sorry to say for you) most Americans DO recognize Christmas as an important religious holiday. So government operations would be severely hampered if 50% or so of the people didn’t show up because they were exercising their First Amendment right which the government cannot “prohibit the free exercise thereof”.

        It’s really, really a stretch of this law and its intent to claim that it “…establishes an official government religious ritual….”
        I don’t see any rituals mentioned. You can stay at home, go to the mall, or simply do nothing. And where it actually causes an expense to the taxpayer, I’m not sure. Are you saying that every government worker gets the day off on the National Day of Prayer?

        If so, I wasn’t aware of that. So what is it costing me, really?

        I read Obama’s proclaimation from last year. I did not see the word “God” , “Christ”, or anything like it listed in it anywhere.
        It said, in part, “…we continue to live in a Nation where people of all faiths can worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience.

        Let us also use this day to come together in a moment of peace and goodwill…”

        That doesn’t sound like he was promoting any religion, in fact he said “or not worship”.

        This is a lot of ado about really, not very much. If someone wants to claim that this is some kind of “slippery slope” that will end up with all of us being forced to attend an Evangelical Christian church every day, well that sounds like the same sort of argument the gun nuts always make.

        Otherwise, it sounds merely like an accommodation, nothing really more.

        • CN, that’s a load. Including an extra clause doesn’t change the meaning of the first clause. There’s an “or” in between. Besides, there’s nothing about NOT having a National Day of Prayer that prohibits the free exercise of religion. Do you really believe that Christians CANNOT freely exercise religion unless they have Congress and the White House inventing new religious holidays for them?

          The law establishes a new religious holiday – a federal government religious holiday, and indicates what sort of religious ritual should be performed as part of the holiday. That’s not stretching things. It’s a fact.

          The issue of cost is a red herring. There is cost involved, but that’s not the standard of the first amendment. The important standard is “Congress shall make no law”, not “Congress shall incur no cost”

          If you read last year’s proclamation from Obama and didn’t see the word God, you’re a very bad reader. The active part of the proclamation reads: “NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 7, 2009, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon Americans to pray in thanksgiving for our freedoms and blessings and to ask for God’s continued guidance, grace, and protection for this land that we love.”

          The law is not an accomodation. Before the act of Congress, there was no nationally celebrated Day of Prayer. After Congress passed the law, there was. Religious holiday manufactured by Congress.

          • Chucklenuts

            I don’t think you can read very well either. I guess I did miss one word out of over 450 (less than 0.25%) but you are a very bad thinker, since you can’t apparently read a dictionary. If I look at dictionary.com for guidance, I see the first two primary definitions of “holiday” as

            1.a day fixed by law or custom on which ordinary business is suspended in commemoration of some event or in honor of some person.

            2. any day of exemption from work ( distinguished from working day).

            Are you really trying to say that this proclamation of a “day of prayer” is causing everyone to get their business suspended for the day? I should have complained to my boss (the government) that I didn’t get my day off.

            And again, turning to the dictionary, a “proclamation” is: 1. something that is proclaimed; a public and official announcement.

            It’s not a law. A law is enforced. Should I quote some legal sources for the difference for you? An “announcement” is NOT a law.
            The Constitution clearly states Congress shall make no LAW.

            And you’re so wrong on your post about establishment of a national “race”. The 14th Amendment, Equal Protection Clause, would clearly prohibit that. And yet the government proclaims February every month as “Black (or whatever we call it today) History Month”

            A whole month. And lots of federal dollars are spent promoting that. By your twisted pretzel logic, that should also violate the 14th amendment, because I, as a 1/4 Chinese, 1/4 Russian, 1/4 Italian, and 1/4 Ethiopian, do not get the government to pronounce a month for my heritage’s history.

            The government issues many zillions of idiotic proclamations every year. They are certainly not all “laws”.

            The president makes proclamations all the time. Here’s two:

            “… So today, I am calling upon Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by John Kerry and Richard Lugar that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years — resources that will build schools and roads and hospitals, and strengthen Pakistan’s democracy….”

            “… I’m also calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Maria Cantwell, Chris Van Hollen and Peter Hoekstra that creates opp…”

            Neither of these or any of his proclamations forced Congress to do anything they didn’t want to. Our government does not work that way, and hopefully you’ll begin to understand it and move on to bleating about more important matters.

  • Jacob

    I love that athiests read the constitution as ‘only athiests can be involved in government and if my chance a nonathiest gets involved they should act like athiests because athiests have the most legal rights in the world’ I think my that logic black history month should go away. Most of America is not black therefore it must be unconstiutional for my taxes to pay for this month. There cant be an establishment of a national race.

    • Jim

      1. Black History Month doesn’t establish a national race. The National Day of Prayer establishes religious procedures for the nation to follow.

      2. Even so, there is no constitutional provision prohibiting the establishment of national races. There is a constitutional provision prohibiting the establishment of religion.

      3. Nobody here wrote ‘only athiests can be involved in government’ or ‘athiests have the most legal rights in the world.’ You may read these words in your mind, but they do not exist in reality except in your fictitious quotation of them.

      So herm, um, no.

      • Chucklenuts

        Jimbo, I definitely think you’re on shakey ground on #2. The 14th Ammendment, Equal Protection would be broadly asserted by the Supremes, (and has) to include things like not being able to establish a “national race”.

    • Jacob, there is no part of the Constitution that forbids Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of race. The equivalent language does exist for religion.

      It’s sad that you can’t imagine a practice of religion that does not involve using government money to promote your form of worship, but plenty of Christians are quite capable of imagining such a thing. The existence of people in government who happen to be Christians is quite different than the use of governmental resources to promote Christianity.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>