National Day of Prayer Hijacking Complete
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Thu May 04, 2006 at 07:18:49 PM EST
The National Day of Prayer has been a traditional part of the religious life of the America since 1952 when President Truman signed its observance into law.  It is supposed to be a chance for the nation to join together in a non-sectarian manner to pray for the country. Here is the President's proclamation for this year's observance, May 4th:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 4, 2006, as a National Day of Prayer. I ask the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, each according to his or her own faith, for the freedoms and blessings we have received and for God's continued guidance and protection. I urge all Americans to join in observing this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

Now, we can debate the merits or otherwise of a government issued proclamation concerning such a religious matter, but that's not the purpose of this post.  My concern is the brazen way the religious right, in the form of the so-called National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDPTF), chaired by none other than James Dobson's wife, Shirley, has hijacked the observance and reshaped it into a purely sectarian occasion.

There is nothing subtle about the way Shirley Dobson and her organization has muscled their way into this position.  Just take a look at their website:

The banner reads  "National Day of Prayer Official Website" and there is a prominent link to the President's proclamation right in the center of the home page.  Now, how on earth could anyone not think that the NDPTF was the official organization in charge of this event for all peoples of America?

You have to go to their About page before you are clued into the sectarian nature of the organization.  Under "Who We Are" you begin to get an idea of what they are really about:

We are the Judeo-Christian expression of the National Day of Prayer which was established in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. The United States was born in prayer and founded on a relationship with God while instituting His biblical principals and moral values.

And finally, at the bottom of the page, we get to their disclaimer, their weasel words:

Official Policy Statement on Participation on Participation of "Non-Judeo-Christian" groups in the National Day of Prayer:

The National Day of Prayer was created by an act of Congress and is, therefore, intended for all peoples of faith to pray to the God of their understanding

However, our expression of that involvement is specifically limited to the Judeo-Christian heritage and those who share that conviction as expressed in the Lausanne Covenant. If peoples of other faiths wish to celebrate in their own tradition, they are welcome to do so, but we must be true to those who have supported this effort and volunteered their time to promote it. National Day of Prayer is not a function of the government and, therefore, a particular expression of it can be defined by those who choose to organize it. This is not a church/state issue

Here is a link to the Lausanne Covenant for those who are unfamilar with it.  Now what in the world does the Lausanne Covenant have to do with the National Day of Prayer?  Well, nothing.  It is a statement of faith for evangelical Christian who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.  In other words, despite all appearances, if you're not a Christian Fundamentalist, then the NDPTF have nothing to offer you.

Now, despite the deliberately deceptive "official" presentation of their website, there is no law against the NDPTF limiting their efforts to the evangelical community.  However, they go further, much further.

First, if you listen to today's Focus of the Family radio show, the presenter mentions Shirley Dobson as the "Chairman of the National Day of Prayer" and introduces their guest, Dr. Henry Blackaby, as the "Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer".  That is an unabashed lie, and they know it, and they know they can get away with it since their organization is the only one that gets national TV coverage whenever this date rolls around. (Dobson will be on Hannity and Combes this evening, I'm told.  Any bets as to how she will be introduced?)

But even worse than that, they have even managed to hijack many of the 50 state National Day of Prayer proclamations.  Many of them (access the links at the bottom of this page) include a phrase similar to this one:

WHEREAS, the motto of the National Day of Prayer and the State Day of Prayer is "America, honor God" a reaffirmation for the biblical exhortation in I Samuel 2:30 "Those who honor me, I will honor" (Idaho)

I haven't looked at them all, but as well as Idaho, the proclamations from Georgia, Ohio, New York, and Florida all mention the "theme". (Surprisingly the one from my home state of Texas does not this year--perhaps someone complained).

Now, where does this motto/theme "America, honor God" come from? There is no mention of it in the President's proclamation, and this is the only official government press release about the NDP.  Hmm. Tough question... Well, of course, the NDPTF thought it up:

This year's theme is "America, Honor God" and is based on 1 Samuel 2:30 NIV - "Those who honor me, I will honor" National Day of Prayer Chairman Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder and chairman Dr. James Dobson, said "at a time when so many principles found in Scripture have been rejected by society, it's all the more vital that God's people stand firmly in defense of the precepts He's laid out in His Word. As we wage this cultural battle, however, none of our efforts are assured success without consistent, fervent prayer for God's intervention."

(From the same page linked above)

So there you have it.  The takeover of the National Day of Prayer by the Christian right, in the form of the Dobson Empire, which has been underway for a number of years, is now virtually complete.  Almost by default, they have become the only national organization affiliated with the event, and have no shame in allowing others to assumed that they act in an official capacity on behalf of the whole nation.  

The NDPTF website lists hundreds of events to take place all around the country tomorrow--and they make it easy for you to list your own, except, you have to sign a statement of faith before you do:

You must be: Commitment to Christ. A volunteer must be an evangelical Christian who has a personal relationship with Christ. I acknowledge that I am working for the Lord Jesus Christ and the furthering of His Work on earth and agree to perform my work with the highest standard of Christian faith.

That's tough luck if you're a Muslim, a Hindu, or even a moderate Christian.  In essence the Dobsons are saying "You are not welcome here at this, the official NDP website--go find your own prayer meeting. Oh, and good luck with that."

from Tony Perkins: "The theme of this year's observance is both a promise and a warning."

And his official National Day of Prayer Statement escalates that "warning" into a red alert.

Those who honor me, I will honor.

1 Sam. 2:30

Never has it been more necessary for us to honor Him. And never has it been more controversial to honor Him. Around the world today, we see Christians being persecuted for their faith. The century just ended saw the worst mass persecutions of Christians in any age since the Advent of Jesus Christ.
The attempt to drive religious free speech--and those who would speak it--from the public square must be resisted. We owe it to the martyrs of twenty centuries. We owe it to our fellow Americans. And we owe it to God Himself. Let us honor Him.

So ... is the cabal of godless secular humanists in charge of the country holding an auto da fé somewhere this weekend that I haven't heard about? And who's bringing the marshmallows?

by moiv on Thu May 04, 2006 at 10:13:29 PM EST

Actually, I'm afraid that instead of marshmallows I bought Ghiradelli chocolate chips and a fifth of Buffalo Trace for the Secular Humanist Derby Party and Auto da Fé.  (I could have sworn I sent out the memo after getting my Sooper-Sekrit Secular Humanist Society Membership Card.

(Damn.  And I was hoping you'd bring the casserole.)

by dogemperor on Thu May 04, 2006 at 11:11:24 PM EST

I was aware that the "National Day of Prayer" had been hijacked, but it's very useful to have it so succinctly delineated :

It's really the  "National Day of Focus on the Family's Prayer For Christian Triumphalism and the Principal of Biblical Inerrancy"....

Or something like that.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri May 05, 2006 at 10:35:05 AM EST

I sent them a email either last year or the year before asking them why they were being so deliberately misleading on their website.  No reply, of course, and it's only gotten worse since then.

One thing I hadn't realized until this year was the inclusion of NDPTF-created themes into the state NDP proclamations.  I wonder if the ACLU has noticed yet....?

by tacitus on Fri May 05, 2006 at 11:42:44 AM EST

Even for a big org. such as the ACLU there's an awful lot to track.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri May 05, 2006 at 05:03:37 PM EST

A very large poster for this event was on the bulletin board at work.
The words America, Honor, and God were NOT part of a sentence separated by a comma (America, honor God) but presented as three separate commands with America on top (nationalism), Honor in the center (values?), and God at the bottom.  
This looked, as I suspect it was intended, to conflate nationalism, religion and "values."

My response?  
A quick Sharpie edit in large black letters, Matthew 6:5.
I tire of these folks misusing my faith!

by nofundy on Mon May 08, 2006 at 01:12:03 PM EST

Excellent article...sad that most secular Americans and progressive Christians don't prioritize rollbacks of things like this very highly when push comes to shove.

How can talk2action sympathizers ensure our next non-Dominionist president takes a few minutes of his first administration to de-legitimize FotF's hijacking of this and other events with a few well-placed signatures on revised, inclusive proclamations?

Who's keeping a to-do list of these seemingly esoteric, off-camera yet vital reclaimings of the public sphere we'll need come some post-inauguration January soon?

by zentrumspartei on Wed May 17, 2006 at 03:55:34 AM EST

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