Last year, under the direction of an act of Congress, Barack Obama issued a proclamation creating an official U.S. federal government religious holiday, the National Day of Prayer. In the proclamation, President Obama described this new religious holiday as an expression of a “spirit of unity”. Is it?
As Barack Obama is preparing to issue a new declaration supporting the National Day of Prayer, despite a U.S. District Court ruling that the government-created religious holiday is unconstitutional, it’s worth noting that increasing numbers of Americans reject religion. As of 2008, one quarter of Americans are non-Christian, and at least 15 percent of Americans live completely without religion of any kind.
That’s a fact worth noting given that the largest organization promoting the National Day of Prayer is an exclusively Christian organization operated by the wife of right wing Christian preacher James Dobson. This organization, the National Day of Prayer Task Force, has gained almost complete control over the congressionally-established religious holiday, though the Task Force is not itself a government institution.
The huge majority of National Day of Prayer activities are organized and promoted through the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which has created a seven-point agenda for National Day of Prayer events that purposefully attempts to meld religion and government. The organization is exclusively Christian, but its religious agenda doesn’t end there.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force compels all its volunteers to sign a religious loyalty oath that binds them to allow only Christians to lead National Day of Prayer activities. That loyalty oath also requires volunteers to agree to a particular form of Christianity: A Christianity that declares that the Bible is literally true, without error, while other religions are false paths that cannot lead to salvation. This loyalty oath reads:
“I believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of The Living God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation and have an ongoing relationship with God. I believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, the atoning work of his shed blood, his resurrection and ascension, his intercession and his coming return to power and glory. I believe that those who follow Jesus are family and there should be unity among all who claim his name.”
Just in case there is any uncertainty about the exclusively Christian work of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, the Task Force also requires all of its volunteers to agree to the following statement:
“I agree to utilize and follow copyright usage of the NDP Task Force promotional materials to 1) perpetuate the annual theme and national media opportunities and 2) ensure a strong, consistent Christian message throughout the nation. I commit that NDP activities I serve with will be conducted solely by Christians while those with differing beliefs are welcome to attend.”
President Obama’s pledge of a religious holiday that will exhibit a “spirit of unity” has clearly not come to pass. The National Day of Prayer is being used to promote division and disrespect, even within Christianity.
In practice as well as in its original legal foundations, the National Day of Prayer is a clear example of the problems that result when the separation of Church and State is broken down by politicians like Barack Obama who seek to enhance their popularity with religious activists. The National Day of Prayer Task Force uses the power of the federal government to exclude and attack Americans that don’t share its narrow set of religious beliefs, violating the promise of our nation’s motto: E pluribus unum.