Trump’s pandemic Day of Prayer: Nothing fails like prayer

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One year ago today, President Donald Trump declared a national day of prayer to stop the pandemic and called on the country to “pray for God’s healing hand to be placed on the people of our nation.”

More than 540,000 Americans died in that interval. That’s more than one American, every minute, for a year. By March 14, 2020, about 57 Americans had died from the coronavirus, according to the World Meters numbers. Exactly one year later, 547,234 Americans are dead. The Johns Hopkins numbers are similar.

Trump’s proclamation proves correct FFRF principal founder Anne Gaylor’s adage that “Nothing fails like prayer.”

Trump trusted in prayer and disinformation as his pandemic response, and it killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. In his call to prayer, Trump invoked the motto, “In God We Trust,” and the bible, declaring, “As we come to our Father in prayer, we remember the words found in Psalm 91: ‘He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.’ ” That johnny-come-lately national motto, a product of the McCarthy era, is not a statement of American values, but a dangerous way to govern.

The Biden Administration, by turning to the scientific and medical experts, and by exhorting Covid-19 mitigation, in less than two full months has been able to predict that the end of the pandemic is in sight.

At the time, FFRF castigated the Day of Prayer as “worthless,” “useless” and dangerous. Quoting FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel, FFRF editorialized that “we believe — we know — that science is the answer to the coronavirus, not religion. Thoughts and prayers won’t stop a virus any more than they will a bullet.”

Thoughts and prayers failed. The pandemic scythed through this nation, aided by churches that refused to close, a Supreme Court that egged them on and a president that turned to prayer, anti-science and anti-masking rhetoric instead of medicine and science. It is perhaps America’s most costly lesson in the dangers of denying reality. We hope it is one our nation never forgets.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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