TODAY saw America mark its annual National Day of Prayer, a silly tradition dating back to 1952, but for the first time in years, no prayer service was conducted at the US Capitol.
Why? Because the building is closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions.
However, Christianity Daily presented the closure as an aggressive move against Christian worship. Under the headline “Biden Administration Won’t Allow National Day Of Prayer To Be Held At US Capitol This Year” it quoted evangelical leader Patrick Mahoney, above*, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, as saying:
It is deeply troubling for the first time in 70 years, there will not be a public prayer service at the United States Capitol Building on the National Day of Prayer. Every American needs to be asking the question, ‘How is it possible to have public prayer prohibited at the Capitol on the National Day of Prayer? – especially when it is a national observance designated by Congress.’
After our permit was denied, for the first time in 70 years, there will be NO PUBLIC witness at the U.S. Capitol Building for the National Day Of Prayer! Brothers and sisters, free speech is in danger today in America.
I will continue to work to ensure the ‘People’s House’ is returned to the people and the First Amendment is once again celebrated and honored at the United States Capitol.
He complained on Twitter that:
I was just told by the United States Capitol Police, I could not hold this sign in front of the fence and I had to delete my pictures. Needless to say, I’m still holding the sign and posting pics on social media.
In 1775, the US Congress first called for the national recognition of prayer, but it was not recognised as a formal celebration on the first Thursday of May until 1952. Following its inception, every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation – including Joe Biden, a fact not mentioned by Christianity Daily.
Meanwhile, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) today called the National Day of Pray “an unconstitutional affront” and pointed out that, in 2010, it won a historic federal court ruling declaring that act of Congress unconstitutional.
In her “sublime 60-page ruling, which is worth savoring,” US District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote:
Recognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not mean that the government may enact a statute in support of it, any more than the government may encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic.
In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.
The annual National Day of Prayer was passed by Congress in 1952 at the direct behest of evangelist Billy Graham for the purpose of bringing “the Lord Jesus Christ” to the nation. He opined:
What a thrilling, glorious thing it would be to see the leaders of our country today kneeling before Almighty God in prayer.
FFRF said the lawsuit exposed the fact that the statute was based on bad history, with the sponsor justifying the statute with a falsehood: that the Founders prayed – which they certainly did not – during the Constitutional Convention where they created our godless Constitution.
The FFRF’s “great victory” did not last. President Obama appealed the decision to the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
The case was thrown out on technical standing, but not on the merits. Even in 2011, the reshaping of the federal judiciary by ultraconservative presidents had taken its toll.
However the co-chairs of the Congressional Freethought Caucus – with its 15 members of Congress dedicated to the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to upholding the rights of freethinkers –sponsored a resolution to name today as “The National Day of Reason.”
The FFRF added:
In the future, we intend to build on the Day of Reason to encourage the president, governors and other elected officials to pass resolutions honoring the Day of Reason
* It may appear that Mahoney was photographed after he pulled all-nighter at a cathouse in Houston, Texas, but that’s how he looked after after he was tear-gassed in Hong Kong while street preaching in Hong Kong in 2019. He posted the pic to Twitter, saying:
The HK police say they only use tear-gas to stop violence. UNTRUE! Here is a picture of me after I was tear-gassed for simply praying on the streets of HK. My eyes had to be flushed.