Our Official National Day of Religious Supremacism
Every year, there are controversies over the "National Day of Prayer," which has somehow become the exclusive province of the Dobson empire. This year it is being held on May first -- and the fireworks have already started.
But lest you think that this is an obscure bit of Bush administration taxpayer financed pandering -- note that even Democratic governors in blue states -- such as the Democratic governor of my state, Massachussetts, Deval Patrick -- are issuing proclamations as drafted by Focus on the Family. See for yourself here.
The Interfaith Alliance, Jews on First!, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, (and probably others) are calling them out on this discriminatory, Christian nationalist
vanity project that comes with the Congressionally mandated imprimatur of the people of the United States.
Jay Keller of the Interfaith Alliance wrote in an e-blast:
In 1952 President Truman called for "A National Day of Prayer" to unite Americans of all faiths as a way to achieve a vibrant national community. Today, it appears that religious conservatives lead by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family's founder James Dobson, have misleadingly hijacked the event as their own. Calling themselves the National Day of Prayer Task Force, they are excluding Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists and even mainline Christians from National Prayer Day events scheduled for May 1, 2008, less than a week away.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force requires volunteer coordinators to sign a pledge stating: "I commit that NDP activities I serve with will be conducted solely by Christians while those with differing beliefs are welcome to attend." The coordinators must also sign a statement of faith that includes the following language: "I believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of The Living God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation and have an ongoing relationship with God." This clearly aligns a government-sponsored event with a particular Christian denomination, in violation of the basic provisions of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Now, we ask you and activists across the country to participate in an Inclusive National Day of Prayer Campaign that exposes the discriminatory practices of this fundamentalist evangelical group. Please contact your governor today and ask them to issue a proclamation for an inclusive observance, and not an exclusivist task force covertly organized by Focus on the Family.
Our friends at Jews on First have set up a website dedicated to promoting inclusion in the National Day of Prayer. It has complete background on the National Day of Prayer and the takeover by the Christian right.
There, you'll also find links where you can learn if your governor has issued a proclamation, and a draft letter and a telephone script that you can use in contacting your governor. Please contact your governor's office now, and forward our message to friends.
Americans United stated in a press release:
Intolerant Religious Right groups are dominating observance of the National Day of Prayer and government officials should refuse to lend them support, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer scheduled for May 1 this year has been largely hijacked by the Religious Right and is being used as an opportunity to promote a far-right religious-political agenda.
"In many cases, this event is more about politics than prayer," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "It's just another excuse for the Religious Right to attack church-state separation."
Many events around the country this year are being coordinated by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a Colorado Springs-based Religious Right organization run by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family Chairman James C. Dobson.
The NDP Task Force's Web site claims it is the "National Day of Prayer Official Web Site," but, in fact, the group has no official status. The Task Force states that its purposes is to "Foster unity within the Christian Church" and "Publicize and preserve America's Christian heritage." Non-Christians are usually prohibited from leading or speaking at NDP Task Force events.
The Dobsons require volunteer prayer coordinators to sign a fundamentalist statement of faith that declares that "the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of The Living God" and that "Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation."
In addition, the NDP Task Force Web site promotes "Drive-Thru History," a home-school curriculum produced by pseudo-historian David Barton that promotes the idea that America was founded to be a "Christian nation."
Despite its sectarian character, the NDP Task Force often draws support from elected officials. The Dobsons annually visit the White House for its NDP event, and public officials attend NDP Task Force events held at the U.S. Capitol.
We have got to get serious about this stuff, though. The National Day of Prayer might sound like an irrelevant observance of no importance. But if people like Shirley Dobson have their way, their religion will choke out all others, leaving us with a weakened monoculture. It's not good for faith, and it's certainly not good for our politics.