Atheist Group Urges Obama to Replace National Day of Prayer with National Day of Reason
The American Humanist Association (AHA) is at it again. The group recently embarked on a mission to replace the word “God” in the national motto “In God We Trust” with “Good” (see The Underground’s article Humanist Group Unveils “In Good We Trust” Billboards). Now they have set their sights on the National Day of Prayer, arguing instead for a “National Day of Reason,” according to CNS News.
The group’s movement started on the heels of last week’s federal court ruling that the National Day of Prayer was indeed unconstitutional because it violates the separation of church and state. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara B. Crabb wrote of the 1952 statute creating the National Day of Prayer that its “sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function,” according to the official AHA web site.
White House spokespersons have reported that President Obama will still recognize the traditional observance of the National Day of Prayer on May 6, as the court’s appeals process will not yet be exhausted by that time.
AHA Director Roy Speckhardt disagrees with the president’s decision.
“The government should not be directing citizens to pray,” he said. “In addition to being unconstitutional, it’s also specifically offensive to people who don’t believe in a god and are made to feel excluded by the observance.”
Historically, there have been several recorded National Days of Prayer, even before the 1952 ruling establishing the observance we now recognize as a nation. In 1775, the Continental Congress marked a day to designate “a time of prayer in forming a new nation.”
Former U.S. President John Adams would later declare May 9, 1798 “a day of solemn humiliation, fasting and prayer.” He asked Americans to pray “that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it.”
The National Day of Prayer became a requirement of U.S. presidents’ recognition when, on April 17, 1952, former President Harry S. Truman signed a bill declaring that all subsequent presidents observe the day.
In recent years, the National Day of Prayer was reintroduced to the nation due, in part, to the efforts of the Reverend Billy Graham and certain members of both the House and the Senate. Together, these men implemented a joint resolution to mark an annual 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.”
Peter Spriggs, senior fellow for policy studies at Family Research Council told CNSNews.com, “The American Humanist Association and their allied groups have every right to promote a new celebration if they want to – and if they can persuade people to participate voluntarily, that’s fine, but I don’t think they have a right to do away with a long-standing tradition that is deeply rooted in our nation’s history – which is calling the people to prayer.”
Spriggs also added, “[The National Day of Prayer] is inclusive of the vast majority of Americans who believe in a Supreme Being and who do pray, and it is inclusive of the vast majority of Americans throughout the history of our country –and the vast majority of the leaders of our country through our history.”
Of Judge Barabra Crabb, Spriggs concluded, “Judge Crabb was inferring that she found something in the Constitution that every president and Congress since 1775 has not.”
The case is expected to have its day in the U.S. Supreme Court.