The annual unconstitutional presidential proclamation of a “Day of Prayer” is a degrading “Declaration of Dependence” by a nation predicated on the Declaration of Independence and a godless secular Constitution. President Biden’s dutiful 2022 proclamation also erases the very existence of nonreligious Americans, as all previous presidential Day of Prayer proclamations have done.
A misguided 1952 congressional law requires the president to issue a National Day of Prayer proclamation, now on the first Thursday of May, during which “the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and medication at churches, in groups, and as individuals.” This annual ritual was suggested by evangelist Billy Graham, who said: “What a thrilling, glorious thing it would be to see the leaders of our country today kneeling before Almighty God in prayer.” So much for a secular purpose. The law and the endless vaporous proclamations it inspires every year at all levels of government degrade the secular principle upon which the United States was founded.
The Constitution, which is godless, notably bars religious tests for public office. Yet the highest office in the land is instructed by an act of Congress to inveigh upon citizens to grovel before an imaginary supernatural force to do our work here on Earth for us. Isn’t that itself a religious test for the president? It certainly implies a religious test to even be an American, because the proclamation assumes all Americans believe in a god, and one who answers prayer.
Biden’s dutiful proclamation makes this same assumption. “Americans of nearly every background and faith have turned to prayer for comfort and inspiration,” he states. Yet today, three in 10 Americans are unaffiliated with religion. “The Nones” at 29 percent are the single largest “denomination” by religious identification, outnumbering Roman Catholics who are about 20 percent of the population. But we nonreligious folk still need to pinch ourselves to know we exist in the political discourse.
Biden’s proclamation, while perfunctory, catalogs a list of “some of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced — saving our planet from the existential threat of climate change; responding to attacks on democracy at home and abroad; and living up to our Nation’s promise of liberty, justice and equality for all.”
As Anne Gaylor, the principal founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, always observed: “Nothing fails like prayer.” It is pandering and cravenly for public officials and citizens to rely on prayer, instead of rolling up our sleeves and solving our own problems. How convenient to exhort a deity to magically solve global crises.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud we challenged the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer, a case we never worked harder on. Our lawsuit uncovered the fact that the statute was based on a lie — the lie that the Founders prayed at the Constitutional Convention, which they did not — and we uncovered its theocratic origins. We lost the challenge not on the merits, but on standing at the appellate level in 2011. But we still savor the magnificent ruling by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of Wisconsin, who wrote an eloquent decision which all secularists should read. She noted, “The same law that prohibits the government from declaring a National Day of Prayer also prohibits it from declaring a National Day of Blasphemy.” She further 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.”
There has been notably less political fealty to the National Day of Prayer since FFRF exposed its history and its links to a private, Christian nationalist outfit that bullied all the governors to sign its bible-based proclamations and held exclusionary public events. But it’s still a bad law based on a lie — unfortunately engendering the perception that religion and government are united.