Oppose Day of “Fasting and Prayer”

Congress Entertains More Religious Window-Dressing

(Madison, Wis.) The Freedom From Religion Foundation opposes a Congressional move to designate a “national day of prayer and fasting.”

House Resolution 153, which passed today by a 346-49 vote, urges the President to issue a proclamation “designating a day for humility, prayer, and fasting for all people of the United States.”

House sponsors included: Akin, Goode, Bartlett, MD; Jones, NC; King, IA; Hayes, J. Davis, VA; Beauprez, C. Brown, FL; Manzullo, Aderholt, Tiahrt, Pitts, Ryun, KS; Myrick, Weldon, FL; Bishop, UT; Barrett, SC; Miller, FL, Ros-Lehtinen, Gingrey, Terry, Souder. The vote breakdown was not immediately posted at the government website (check later at website link below).

It is similar to Senate Res. 91, which had two sponsors and passed by unanimous consent on March 17, declaring March 17 to “be designated a national day of prayer and fasting.”

The house version calls on the people of the United States “to observe the day as a time of prayer and fasting,” “to seek guidance from God to achieve a greater understanding of our own failings,” and “to gain resolve in meeting the challenges that confront our nation.”

The resolution invokes prayer in the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1774 before the United States was founded, and a day of prayer supposedly declared in 1776 by the Continental Congress, also before the secular U.S. constitution was adopted. It also invokes the fact that Benjamin Franklin asked for prayer at the Constitutional Convention, but fails to mention that there was so little support for his idea that the session adjourned, and formal prayer was never held.

It was Pres. Thomas Jefferson who observed, when refusing to issue a thanksgiving proclamation (in a letter to Rev. Mr. Miller):

“I consider the Government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution of the United States from meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. . . But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe, a day of fasting and praying. That is, I should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, which the Constitution has directly precluded them from. . . .

“Everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.”

“If Thomas Jefferson had no power to prescribe prayer and religion, the current Congress certainly has none,” said Foundation president Anne Gaylor.

“This is offensive not just to the 14% of the U.S. population that is not religious, but to practitioners of many diverse beliefs, including Christians who do not follow ‘fasting’ traditions of supplication,” Gaylor added. She quipped, “Of course, I think it might be a good idea if Rep. Sensenbrenner fasted.”

“The resolution is full of references to ‘God,’ as if belief in one is unanimous. It is insufferable ego to imagine that, if there were a god, it would respond to these demeaning supplications. It is primitive to imagine that the natural laws of the universe could be suspended or altered by group wishful thinking. Ironically, as Congress entertains these meaningless motions, the Iraqi peoples and their supporters are praying to their God for the opposite results!”

Gaylor urged her membership to contact their individual representatives and senators to object to resolutions about religion, which are outside the purview of Congress. “With problems such as an awe-inspiring deficit to deal with, how can they fritter away their time in this manner?”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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