Do Other Newspapers Have a Daily Prayer?

This is news to me: The Oklahoman has a daily prayer on its front page (I boxed it in red near the bottom left):

Oklahoma Atheists president Red McCall tells blogger Jim Romenesko:

I think that the inclusion of the [Prayer of the Day] piece is just as simple as catering to their market. I personally do not know who their specific demographic is, but I don’t recall many of my peers subscribing to the publication. The national percentage of people who claim to be Christian in this country is around 83%. I am pretty sure that in Oklahoma, that percentage is quite higher.

No one’s calling for a lawsuit (the paper can do what it wants) — it’s just something worth noting.

I don’t think they’re going to get much pushback. Though I would love to see the prayer right next to the horoscopes, since that’s really all this is: A chance for readers to take vague language and repurpose it to whatever’s already going on in their lives.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • ortcutt

    It’s handy that there’s a prayer in the newspaper for those times when I forget how to pray. Then I say to myself, “I want to praise you, oh Lord, but I can’t remember how to do it. Well, better go out and get The Oklahoman then.”

  • WallofSleep

    I live in the part of California where the website Free Republic was founded. The local rag has an entire section titled “Faith and Values”.

    • C Peterson

      The nearest large town to me is Colorado Springs (happily, still a good distance away, though). Its rag, the Gazette, also has a religion section. Unfortunately, it’s the opinion and editorial pages, much of which is written by their rabidly Catholic editor.

    • JET

      I feel privileged. My So Cal paper has a weekly Religion and Ethics section. I just looked online, and the lead article last week was a local Lutheran university’s religion professor being named the first openly gay Lutheran bishop! That very same university has a Secular Student Alliance!! Those crazy Lutherans!!!

  • Bruce Martin

    There are lots of similar daily prayers, as regular features like the horoscope and the comics, in many if not most papers in the Midwest and south. There are just a few big city papers that don’t have them.
    Don’t forget that the typical reader of this site is not the typical paper-buying customer in most rural demographics. For my work, I have had to live for years in AL, LA, KS, CO, AZ, and OR. Other than for the largest paper or 2 in each state, I’d be shocked to find any paper in these states without a bible verse for the day. Most of their customers would rather cut out news from outside states, to be able to keep their prayer, verse, or both.

    • anniewhoo

      I live in a rather small city in the South. We don’t have prayers in our paper, and I’ve never seen this before either.

  • anniewhoo

    I was thinking of horoscopes too when I read the title of this post. It’s really no different to me. I think it would be great if they put them on the same page… alongside the ads for the “magic” pills that will make you lose 50 pounds in a week.

  • C Peterson

    Most papers that print horoscopes include a disclaimer along the lines of “for entertainment purposes only”. The prayer section should do the same.

    • Christian Kemp

      I was wondering if this newspaper even had a horoscope and so I went to their website. Low and behold they do have a horoscope, makes you wonder how they bring the daily prayer and the horoscope together for their believers.
      Sometimes (correction all times) I just dont understand theism.

  • THAT guy

    Does this newspaper receive tax benefits from the government, funds from a local municipality, or have a history of oppressing people for their beliefs/lifestyle/color?

    If not, I don’t see how this is newsworthy.

    • C Peterson

      It is of interest to many of this forum’s followers because it provides insight into an aspect of American culture relevant to our aims. Not everything reported on has to be illegal or unconstitutional.

      • THAT guy

        I understand that, but there has to be something that deserves more attention than a simple bible verse making up less than 1/30 space on the front page of a newspaper.

        If it was one of the bigoted, hateful, misogynistic verses, then I would see Hemant’s point. Personally, I’ve pointed it out to my local newspaper whenever they’ve featured churches that spout that bullshit, but this verse is benign. Like the quoted atheist group says, they’re just catering to their base.

        • TCC

          I think it’s merely a matter of curiosity, nothing more.

        • Houndentenor

          No one said it was wrong or bad. He just seemed curious if any other newspapers had a similar practice.

        • C Peterson

          It doesn’t matter how little space it occupies. The interesting thing is that a largish newspaper prints a daily prayer at all. Perhaps you don’t find that noteworthy, but I do… not least because of the irony of this pointless show of piety in a place recently hammered by a number of “acts of God”.

    • John_in_Vegas

      As one who frequently searches the internet for local reporting on major current events stories, I find it useful to understand who else may be reading a newspaper. You can gain a lot of insight by looking at what’s on the facing pages of the news story you are trying to research.

  • Megan

    My hometown newspaper goes beyond a daily prayer. Each clergy man or woman gets his or her own column. But then my hometown newspaper only comes out once a week.

  • Timothy R Alexander

    I know the Arizona republic has something like that, printed on page A2 if I remember right.

  • Lee Miller

    Funny, because these days fewer and fewer newspapers have a prayer . . .

    • WallofSleep
    • chicago dyke

      kinda thinking the same thing. i was almost not really sorta tempted to buy the “local” paper the other day, in the gas station. out of curiosity, to see what the hell it was doing. but certainly not because i wanted it to inform or enlighten me. i use the internet when i need true information. papers? they’re sort of like, i dunno, ‘what the prom queen did this week’ publications i’m only interested to buy on a whim.

      most of them just reprint the AP feed and add some ‘local’ color which is essentially advertising, imho. print is dead.

      • Willy Occam

        I agree… I’m interested in reading regional newspapers when traveling strictly to get a sense of the local color. If I want real news, I’ll sample what’s on the internet news sites.

        Local papers are an endless source of amusement, especially what shows up on the small-town police blotter.

  • SeekerLancer

    My local paper has a “daily bible thought.” Usually a quote from the bible followed by a pastor’s interpretation of it.

    • WallofSleep

      “So remember, if any of you would-be rapists plan on going out this weekend, make sure you bring 50 pieces of silver and an engagement ring with you, and you’ll be all good with God.”

    • Paul Reed

      My local weekly paper has a similar column. The few times I’ve read it, it’s just been a ramble about mundane events or current news, tenuously linked to religious “wisdom” or scripture.

  • A3Kr0n

    Nope, no prayer, but I learned a Catholic school is closing, and in other news a teacher was drunk on a field trip!

  • Damion Reinhardt

    They are just catering to their base. The lefty types here in OKC generally prefer the alternative weeklies and the internet for their news.

  • Frank Mitchell

    If I had the money, I’d buy a paper in Providence, RI and add a daily Lovecraft quote to its front page. Examples:

    “The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.”

    “If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.”

    “To the scientist there is the joy in pursuing truth which nearly counteracts the depressing revelations of truth.”

    Inspiring, no?

    EDIT: And how could I forget this one?

    “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

  • akak907

    I remember the newspapers in Indianapolis while I was growing up always having a daily prayer as well. Don’t think its that uncommon in the south, Midwest, and central US, ie the bible belt.

  • LesterBallard

    No tornadoes in Oklahoma, prayer really works.

  • Anna

    Never seen anything like that around here. I’m in the most liberal part of California. The local paper has a small section called “Houses of Worship,” but it’s just advertising by religious groups trying to attract new members. Not limited to Christian, also Buddhist, Jewish, etc. We do have one of those generic horoscope sections, but that’s about it for supernaturalism.

  • Katwise

    The Daily Herald (Chicago area) has this motto: “Our aim: To fear God, tell the truth and make money.”

    • Oranje

      Sounds like the motto for all of DuPage County.

  • DougI

    Growing up, my home town paper, The Daily News Miner (out of Fairbanks, AK) didn’t have a prayer. So when I moved to KS I was surprised that it’s in the papers here. The Wichita Eagle has a Billy Graham Q&A (the answer is always the same, we need more Jesus) in the comic section, so I guess that’s appropriate. The prayers are in the editorial section.

  • MsC

    The last newspaper I worked for did not have a daily prayer. They did, however, have a religion reporter. He covered religion matters like the Catholic diocese closing churches, or the changing demographics of local churches, synagogues and mosques, just as a reporter would cover government or business. He was Ivy League educated, with advanced degrees in both journalism and theology, and that showed in the quality and depth of his work. He went beyond doctrine to explain how such news impacted not just members of the religion, but the community as a whole in terms of things like activism and service organizations. He was able to get local religious leaders on the phone within minutes if a national or international religion-based story needed context. The paper then laid him off because they were looking for more web-friendly workers. He had a weekly column on faith and the community, and his replacement for that was one of the sports columnists, who “found Jesus” after discovering internet porn and watching it all the time.

  • abb3w

    The Pew Forum’s polling indicates the US is about 75% Christian or so (circa 2012); Oklahoma is about 85% Christian (~2010). The big difference is that Oklahoma is about 53% Evangelical Christians — roughly double the level (26%) of the US as a whole.

  • RossPDX

    Sunday’s prayer is “We admit our sinful ways, dear Lord, and plead for Your merciful forgiveness.” What do you swat a newspaper with when it’s done something bad?

  • DreadPirateRogers

    I haven’t read it in a while, but the Houston Chronicle has, or maybe had, a daily Bible verse.

  • baal

    The bible verse is ok in my book since they have Dustin Heath Bridges on the front page in satan pose. That’s editorial balance so It passes.

  • Michael Harrison

    At least the Baton Rouge Advocate puts it on the Letters to the Editor page rather than the front page.